Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Five Minutes of Awesomeness

I'd say this video fits the theme of this blog rather well. Learn about the Big Bang vs. the Big Banger. Learn about what requires blind faith and a closed mind. Learn about what requires only reason and an open mind.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Divine Availability

Recently, a good friend of mine, who is a candidate for the Diaconate, gave me a copy of an article that appeared in the Summer 2003 issue of the periodical Pro Ecclesia. This article is entitled "Divine Disponibilité: The Hypostatic Ethos of the Holy Spirit" by Khaled Anatolios. This article has changed my understanding of the Trinity, especially in regard to the Holy Spirit.
Khaled Anatolios
It is a fairly heavy article, not read only once and put away. It is one of those that comes in layers. The first reading yields much, hinting at more. The second reading more fully fleshes out the ideas, hinting again at meanings underlying the metaphors and making connections yet unguessed.

A really good post was made about this article soon after it came out by Peter Leithart in the First Things blog here. While it is an excellent summary, I'd like to present the first fly-by of concepts here, 10 years later.

First of all, Anatolios laments that the Holy Spirit's place in the Trinity is vague and confusing and whose acts are often confused and conflated with those of the Son. Yet Scripture clearly demonstrates the discreteness of the divine Persons. He points out that the clearest distinction is made when the Holy Spirit is seen alternately as "gift" or "mutual love." The term "gift" is primarily stressed by the Eastern churches and "mutual love" by the Western tradition. His goal is to create a synthesis of the two different conceptions of the Holy Spirit that more fully shows the uniqueness of the third Person of the Trinity and the surprising unity of both metaphors.

He then introduces the concept of "availability" (French: disponibilité) as applied to human, or interpersonal interactions by the French philosopher, Gabriel Marcel.
For Marcel, there are five aspects of availability for human relationships.
  1. Availability to others outwardly, contrasted to un-availability where one is closed-off to others; seeing the other person as someone who could be me
  2. Availability to another's appeals; the ability to be appealed to, both to the needs/situation of the other and an active (non-passive) and enthusiastic receiving of the other (being open to others); appealing also in the sense of attracting/delighting in
  3. Availability as the openness to commit to another; to allow the other to lay a claim to our response; the Good Samaritan exhibits this par excellence, where the robbed man's tragic circumstances alone appeal for help to the Good Samaritan
  4. Availability that sees every situation as an opportunity and every circumstance as gift; placing oneself in the place of the other, not replacing, but standing together in that situation
  5. Availability as love; enclosing others within our circle and sharing all with another; the father in the Prodigal Son demonstrates this
These five aspects of availability must now be examined as they apply to the Holy Spirit.
  1. The Spirit makes the Word of the Father available to the world through the prophets; it is also the Spirit that is the medium that makes the Father available to the Son and the Son to the Father.  "I am in the Father, and the Father is in me." (Jn 14:10)   He makes communion possible.
  2. The Spirit is God's willingness to outwardly extend His Word, thus bringing about creatures that can appeal to Him.  Also, man's fallen state is construed as an appeal to God, thus calling upon God's Word into the availability of the Incarnation.  The Spirit is also the way in which we take joy in the Lord, in which we praise God and in whom the Father and Son take joy in each other.
  3. The Spirit is a pledge or "down payment" from God of his gifts.  It is this that allows us to claim the undeserved sonship promised to us, laying claim as heirs to the kingdom.  It is a similar pledge between Father and Son that pledges one to the other through the Spirit.
  4. The Spirit is that which transforms every human situation into divine gift.  It is in this way that "discernment" is understood.  The Spirit opens our circumstances to the divine life. Also, it is through the Spirit that the Scriptures were written and only through that same Spirit can they be interpreted.  It is only when divine and human availability meet that Scripture is composed and, again, understood. 
  5. The Spirit is love in that He effects the mutual availability between the Father and the Son.  He also brings about a mutual availability of the Father and the Son to others.  The Father and Son face inward individually in love through the Spirit, which then enables the Father/Son to face outwardly to embrace in love all others.  So the Spirit enables both types of love, where both sides love and where only one loves another who does not love in return.
I have found that the concept of availability is extremely useful in understanding human love, but am blown away to consider how the Spirit effects and brings about love both within the Godhead (the Spirit as "love") AND from God to His creatures (the Spirit as "gift").  

The Holy Spirit is both the message and the message's medium.  He is both "love" and "loving."  It is He who makes the Father available here on earth initially through the prophets, then through the Incarnation and ultimately indwelling within us beginning at Pentecost.  He brings God's love to earth to envelop us in its embrace, pulling us in, and then outwardly enables us to bring that same love to those who do not yet know that embrace.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Dear Mother Mary

It’s been three years since my son’s Godmother passed away at age 46, far exceeding her original life expectancy. She suffered from Cystic Fibrosis and succumbed on August 22, 2010.

She was a faithful Catholic (to say the least) that wrote prodigiously. All her final journal entries began with “Dear Mother Mary”. As a read them, I began to see the entries as a kind of Anti-Screwtape Letters. If you are familiar with the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, you will recall that each letter began with “My Dear Wormwood”, but those letters are sinister, these letters are the precise opposite.

She and her husband were planning a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the summer of 2010, but the Lord prepared a final pilgrimage to holiness instead. Below is her final journal entry. Since the number three in scripture can be symbolic of “perfection”, I thought it fitting to share this exactly three years later on the Feast of the Assumption.

                                                                                                Sunday, Aug 15, 2010
                                                                                                Feast of the Assumption

Dear Mother Mary,
Happy Feast Day!  What a glorious moment that must have been to be reunited with your Abba, your spouse, your son.
Today was the day we were to begin our travels to the Holy Land.  Today was the day I wondered if I was going to end my pilgrimage on earth.  Even up to this afternoon’s CPT, I still felt unwell.

I was delighted that I seemed to figure out the Tobra was causing problems.  As more and more time passes since my last dose of it, I feel so much better, OK, I am still sick, but I can breathe again! The Dr. doubled my diuretic dose and that has helped a lot too I guess.

Somehow the Lord is allowing me to get back to normal(ish?). Many, many people are praying for us.  Was this recovery a gift from you Mother Mary to celebrate your feast day which is a celebration of God’s love and mercy?
My head is pounding though, so I think I need to bring this to a close.

Thank you that Father came by today and anointed me and listened to my confession.  What an awesome gift!  I received so much today!  Happy Feast Day!



The number seven in scripture is often symbolic of “completion”. Jan went home to the Lord seven days after writing this, on August 22, the Feast of the Queenship of Mary. These were the last words she ever wrote. What a fitting way to begin eternal life and what a fitting example to us about fostering a relationship with the Mother of God.

Happy Feast Day Dear Mother Mary!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Heterosexuals Caused Same-Sex Marriage

Does this post title shock you? It is a hard teaching. Who could accept it? I too was taken back when I first heard it from someone else, but it didn’t take long to see the logic. Heterosexuals have been watering down the true meaning of marriage for decades. A slippery slope need not be as fast as the metaphor implies. A lava flow can be slower than 1km/hour, but will destroy everything in its path.

The foundation for the marriage slope was laid by ending the idea of “permanent”. No fault divorce laws coincided with a message that marriage is a mere convenience, an institution that exists only for the personal happiness and pleasure of two individuals. For no fault divorce, it's basically enough to declare that a couple is no longer happy (irreconcilable differences). There is no need to “work things out”.  We can hardly blame the gay community for this. In the eyes of God however, divorce doesn’t really exist. A couple may need to be legally parted in the case of abuse or other intolerable circumstance (CCC 2383), but once God joins a valid one-flesh-union, it exists. There is no way to make it stop existing. Consider your life. Once you are conceived, you exist. Nothing that happens down the road will change this.

If no fault divorce is the foundation, artificial contraception/sterilization raised-up the angle for the sliding slope of marriage. Homosexuals have no use for contraception or sterilization, so don’t blame them. If marriage is for the personal happiness and pleasure of two individuals, then children are obviously an unnecessary by-product. Contraception blows apart the triune nature of marriage, sex & procreation, furthering the idea that marriage is about mutual gratification and sex is for anyone’s pleasure, married or not. Once the rationale is fragmented, the gay community can easily pick-up the scattered pieces of marriage and reform them into something “else”, something that does not reflect the image & likeness of God.
My wife and I help with the marriage ministry at our parish. One thing we do for the engaged couples is give a talk on sex & intimacy in marriage, which relates to the theology of the body, which relates to the image & likeness of God, which relates to the way God loves. From the eternal love between the Father and the Son proceeds a third person called the Holy Spirit. In a similar way, the love between a husband and wife helps to create a third person called a baby. Consider the Catholic wedding vows as well:
Ø  Have you come here freely?
God loves freely, so we should love freely. Love is an act of the will that cannot be forced.
“No one takes it from me, but I lay it down (my life) of my own accord..." (John 10:18)

Ø  Will you honor each other as man & wife for the rest of your lives?
God holds nothing back in loving us totally and permanently.
“…he loved them to the end.” (John 13:1)
“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Mat 28:20)

Ø  Will you accept children lovingly from God?
God’s love is always fruitful and brings life. Marriage does the same.
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
"Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” (Gen 9:1)

Procreation is an indispensable part of marriage and the one flesh union should always be something totally self-giving that holds nothing back; it should be God-like. Catholics call this being “open to life”. Whenever procreation is mentioned as part of marriage however, infertile couples are called on the carpet. If infertile couples can marry, why can’t gay couples? We must remember that an infertile male/female union is still of the same procreative “type” just like any male/female union.

Consider a baseball analogy. A baseball team is orientated to winning baseball games. Even if they NEVER win a game, no matter how much they try, they are still a baseball team and are always allowed on the baseball diamond. A football team also NEVER wins a baseball game, but a football team is not relevant to winning baseball games, neither is a soccer team, or any other kind of team other than a baseball team.
It is really heterosexuals that built the slow sliding slope that leads directly to gay “marriage”. True marriage reflects the image & likeness of God. It is meant to be unitive, procreative, mutually exclusive and permanent and none of these aspects can be intentionally separated. This is not true because the Catholic Church teaches it. The Catholic Church teaches it because it is true!