Sunday, September 28, 2014

God Has NO Favorites, We must Work - 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today's readings deal with the theme that God has no favorites and that we must work for Salvation.

In the first reading from the Prophet Ezekiel, we are reminded that we are responsible for our lives and how we behave.  We cannot blame others for ourselves, especially our bad behavior.  Many of us complain saying: "The Lord's way is not fair!" We complain about the many "commandments" that we have to follow which we cite as being restrictive to living life. Atheists often call God immoral for punishing people and for the mere fact that there is a hell. However, God is in fact fair. God is the creator.  He made us. We are responsible solely to Him.  It would be absurd to think that a parent does not set down rules for children.  Moreover, it would be absurd to think that justice and punishment are not connected.  Some criticize the idea that a hell exists.  How can a merciful loving God have a hell?  Well in order for there to be order and justice, there needs to be a hell just like in order for our justice system to work, there needs to be a court and jail system.  What good are rules or laws if there are no consequences for breaking them?  We have the free will and ability to refrain from breaking the laws.

In the responsorial Psalm , we recall how God is merciful. We read how God makes known to us His ways and teaches us the right path.  God is our savior.  God loves us and never changes this love.  The love that God gives is not conditional.  God is in fact merciful.  He will forgive any sin as long as we are open to accepting His mercy and make the effort to be forgiven.

The second reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians tells us that we must live in love and unity. We must care for one another, not just ourselves. By doing this, we act in Christ.  The things we do in life must not be for selfish reasons or to see glorification.  They must serve others. Unfortunately, there are sometimes a few of us who trying to scale the "latter of success" in the Church. We may want to be promoted faster, or seek to be honored for things we may have done.  This is not what it is supposed to be about.  It is about service to God and others.  This service allows for personal spiritual growth.

Finally, in the Gospel we read of how a man has two sons.  To the first, the man tell hims to go and work in the vineyard.  The first son says he will not but then does the work.  The second son is approached the same way and relies "yes" to the command, but does not go to work.  This parable from Jesus reminds us that we cannot become complacent as Catholics.  Many times, we feel we are saved just because we are Catholics. There are even some who only go to Mass twice a year whom are often called "A&P Catholics." They feel this is enough to please God and perfect our souls.  This is far from the truth.  Moreover, we often see at Mass people leave before it is over. Judas did the same thing at the Last Supper.  In this parable, Jesus psychoanalyzes the two types of believers: the one who says no but then realizes what is at stake and does the work and the one who says yes immediately, but does no work.

Which one are we?  Do we say "YES' to the creed on Easter and then do not do the work the rest of the year?  Or are we the ones who come to God lazy at first, but then realize that we are offending Him, others and ourselves and then go out and do the work? This is what we must ask ourselves. Nothing is guaranteed in simply calling ourselves "Catholic." We must put that word into action. Catholicism must be living in us and not just something we do on Sunday or even twice a year.  Our works do not save us, nor does solely our faith (James 2:14-26).  We must incorporate both with the free grace that God gives us.  God has no favorites in this regard.  Just because we may be Jew or Christian by name, does not guarantee that we will be with God at the end of time or at death.  We must earn our keep, so to speak.  This can only be done by responding to God's grace with faith and works.



Friday, September 26, 2014

White House

In a time where terrorism seems to be everywhere and threats against America are being made, it is expected that security must be a priority.  However, the house that is supposed to be heavily secured was breached recently by a man who scaled fences and literally entered that house.  The house I am referring to is the American fortress known as the "White House."

The White House is the residence of the sitting president of the United States of America.  It is there that he conducts the business of the people. He governs and observes intelligence from there. This place is often surrounded by snipers, secret service agents as well as DC police.  The house is thought of to be impenetrable. This seems to be far from reality since a man entered the White House armed with a knife.

It is unthinkable to learn that the White House can be breached so easily. This house has inspired action movies in Hollywood where the movies show the security surrounding the resident. One would expect the same thing in real life, but this is apparently not so. The fact that a man can easily enter it is disturbing and scary.  Why isn't our president safe? Why isn't the People's House safe?  Keeping this house impenetrable sends a message around the world regarding America's power. If a man with a knife can easily enter it, imagine terrorists.  Recently, ISIS said it would raise the Islamic flag at the White House.  Well with the way things are going, I wouldn't be surprised if this literally happens!

The secret service is asleep on the job.  There needs to be inquiries and investigations made as to why the White House was breached.  In 2011, a man shot at the White House and the secret service didn't even know until the housekeepers found the damage on the windows and facade of the building. This is totally unacceptable.  Are we going to let the White House become a target for any kind of attack?  The White House was burned centuries ago by the British.  Is history going to repeat itself?


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Derek Jeter #RE2PECT #FarewellCaptain

The day Yankee fans have dreaded is finally coming to fruition.  Yankees renown shortstop Derek Jeter will be playing his final home game at the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York.  Jeter, a twenty year veteran decided this season would be his last.  Unfortunately, the Yankees were eliminated yesterday so Derek Jeter will not be in the postseason.  It is not sure if there would be a game tonight due to heavy rain.  However, MLB has stated that it will try to get the game played.

I will update this post if the game is played**

The game is over with the Yankees being victorious.  However, guess who won the game?  If you have guessed Derek Jeter, then you are correct!   The game was a bit nerve wrecking.  As the crowds chanted 'Derek Jeter,' the Orioles hit a homer scoring the first run. This seemed to have dampened the mood of fans looking to see the last home game of the Yankee shortstop.  They continued until the Orioles hit another homerun. However, Jeter would come up and hit a double bringing in the first run of the game. The Yankees would eventually take the lead.  Jeter was obviously nervous. He looked emotional at times perhaps thinking that this was his final game and it would be the last time that he saw the crowd, heard the noises and played the game on the field.

As the 7th inning came, everyone thought it would be Jeter's last at bat.  The game looked like it would go in the Yankees favor until consecutive home runs would tie the game in the 9th.  Yankees closer David Robertson blew the save.  However, in the bottom of the 9th inning with a Yankee on based, Derek Jeter would come up and hit one of his famous 'Jeterian' hits and brought in the winning run.  The stadium blew up with excitement.  Jeter ended his last game at the new Yankee Stadium in a magical way that seemed scripted.  Only Derek Jeter can come into the batter's box and bring about what seems to be impossible plays that put the Yankees on top.  It is no wonder why they call him "Captain Clutch."

His fellow players came on the field to embrace him.  As he was celebrating with them, some of his older team mates were by home plate waiting for him: former manager Joe Torre, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, and Tino Martinez.  Their presence along with the end of the game signaled the end of an era.  Jeter's family was also present.  We got a glimpse of his nephew Jaylin even tipping his cap to his uncle.

There will be no other player like Derek Jeter.  He is truly a legend and will be missed.  He deserves nothing more than Re2pect for being such a great player and class act who at the end of the game congratulated the Baltimore Orioles for making it to the playoffs even stating that they deserved it. Derek Jeter is a true role model in the sports world for young people.      

Another thing that was interesting about the game is that it was with the Baltimore Orioles. The last
game at the old Yankee Stadium was played with the same time.  What a coincidence that Jeter's last game at home was with the Orioles.  It is interesting to note that the Yankees were once the Orioles. They were moved to New York and were called the "Highlanders."


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Padre Pio

Today is the feast day of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, OFM Cap.  He was commonly referred to as "Padre Pio" when alive and is still invoked in the same manner today.  He was born on May 25, 1887 and died on September 23, 1958.  His birth name was Francesco Forgione.

On January 6, 1903 he entered the novitiate program of the Capuchin friars at Morcone.  He was only 15 years old at the time.  He would begin his studies to become a priest after novitiate but would suffer many physical problems.  It was around this time that he began to experience supernatural events such as levitation and demonic attacks.

In 1920, Padre Pio would be ordained a priest at the Cathedral of Benevento by archbishop Paolo Schinosi. Due to his illness, he was allowed to remain with his family until 1916.  It was around this time that he moved into the Our Lady of Grace Friary in the Gargano Moutains at San Giovanni Rotondo.  He would remain at this location most of the time until he was called to military service.  His military service was cut short due to his bad health.  Padre Pio was discharged on March 16, 1918.

Months after his discharge on September 20, 1918, while hearing the confessions of others, Padre Pio began to experience the "stigmata," or the physical manifestation of the wounds of Christ. Despite trying to keep it a secret, news spread around that he had the stigmata and many flocked to see him.  It is reported that his wounds a blood smelled like flowers which is described as the "odor of sanctity."

Immediately, claims of healing, bilocation, the gifts of tongues, clairvoyance and other supernatural attributes were surrounding Padre Pio. This increased his popularity.  Studies were made on his wounds by several doctors and none could explain them.  His woulds would never get infected, never had a foul odor and had healed once and reappeared again in the same manner. X-rays of his hands were taken and no damage to his bones were found.  Skeptics attacked Padre Pio by claiming that his stigmata was fake.  According to a pharmacist named Maria De vito, Padre Pio had requested 4 grams of carbolic acid  and needles. It was suggested that he used these to cause the words on his hands.  However, the carbolic acid and needles were used to care for those ssufferingfrom the Spanish Flu.  Moreover, carbolic acid decays human flesh and degrades tissue which was not what was observed in the stigmata of Padre Pio.  Despite being able to heal others, Padre Pio suffered many physical problems.  He had asthmatic bronchitis, kidney stones, abdominal pains, chronic gastritis, an ucler, inflammations of his eyes, nose, ear and throat, rhinitis, otitis.  He also had an inguinal hernia repaired, a cyst removed, and a tumor on his ear radiated.  Padre Pio was not one to parade his wounds around. He wore mittens to cover them.  

As with any holy person, Padre Pio was under the microscope of the Catholic Church.  Some believed him to be a fraud or possibly possessed by the devil.  The local ordinary, Bishop Gagliardi believed the Capuchin friars were making up stories about Padre Pio in order to make money.  Under Pope Pius X, Padre Pio was prohibited from public ministry. He was made subject to many investigations.  Friar Agostino Gemelli, who was also a psychologist dismissed Padre Pio has being a psychopath who mutilated himself in order to fool the people.  Skeptics and atheists would often dismiss Padre Pio as being delusional.  One atheist told him that he focused on Jesus' passion so much that his body began to show the wounds, basically describing Psychosomatic symptoms.  Padre Pio replied to him to think hard of a bull to see if the atheist grows horns.  The Vatican from 1924 to 1931 would issue statements denying that Padre Pio had any supernatural events occurring to him.  In 1960, Monsignor Carlo Maccari who later was installed as archbishop of Ancona initiated another investigation. The 200 paged reported suggested that Padre Pio was a fraud and even had sex with women every week. However, his room was bugged and no evidence of this was discovered. Maccari would later recant his claims and prayed to Padre Pio on his deathbed.

According to reports, Saint John Paul II visited Padre Pio when he was a young Karol Wojtyła who was told that he would rise to the Church's highest official.  Some deny this claim, but it is interesting to note that once becoming Pope, Wojtyla started the canonization process for Padre Pio.  

He was beatified in 1999 and canonized on June 16, 2002 by Saint John Paul II.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Teen, Oral Sex & Jesus

Sometimes you think you have heard it all, but guess again...

A disturbed Pennsylvania teen is facing possibly two years in juvenile jail for desecrating a sacred object.  The 14 year old jumped upon a statue of Jesus praying at Gethsemane outside the headquarters of the "Love in the Name of Christ" Christian organization and began making sexual motions simulating oral sex with the statue.

Yes, you read that right.  This kid climbed on the statue of Jesus, put his crotch bulge over the face and started rocking back and forth as if the statue were performing oral sex on him.  A friend of this teen took photos and posted them on Facebook where the photos went viral eventually leading to the police being contacted. The teen was arrested and charged with the desecration of a venerated object.

Unfortunately, many on the Huffington post and other news outlets are voicing outrage over the possible jail time the teen may receive. They are excusing it as a "prank" or "boys will be boys" thing.  Seriously?  This kid is obviously mentally disturbed.  Antisocial behavior is one of the signs of mental illness. This was no prank or a "boy being a boy." What boy will be performing oral sex on a statue or anyone else?  This is not a "boy" thing. This goes to show how warped our society has gotten. They do not realize that this is a desecration of a venerated object and is religious hate. Imagine if we start calling Swastikas painted on Jewish homes or Temples "pranks" or a case of "boys being boys."  I seriously doubt they will not call it this and will say it is hate.

The fact that this boy, only 14 is simulating sexual acts shows how desensitized our youth have become.  Sex is presented to them via music, video games, movies, shows, the internet, sex ed etc. Then we wonder why teen pregnancy is an issue, kids are raping and molesting one another, the cases of teachers having sex with kids is rising, etc etc etc. Our society is becoming immoral and if we do not do something fast, it will only get worse.

In my opinion, this teen should be sentenced for the 2 years so he can learn his lesson and be an example to any other teens or adults out there who may be thinking of doing this as well.  If the kid gets off free, then this will encourage others to do the same or worse. The law must set an example that religious hate and the desecration of a venerated object must not be tolerated.

Ironically, this statue is a depiction of Jesus praying at the Garden of Gethsemane where He cried tears of blood because of the reality that He was about to suffer for the sins of humanity.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Mercy & Being Last in Line - 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time

The readings today deal with God's mercy, the limited time to seek it and humility.

In the first reading, we read how Isaiah tells the people to seek God while He may be found.  What does this mean?  Can God be lost?  Is not God everywhere?  The statement Isaiah is making is not one regarding spatial parameters, but the limited time for the soul to seek God and repent.  It is not news that we all live here for a while on Earth and then die. While here, we have free will and can choose good or evil. We can choose to tell the truth or to lie. We can choose to follow the Commandments or break them.  However, God waits for us to return to Him. He extends His arms to receive us.

God is generous in forgiving as Isaiah states.  There is no sin that is greater than God. We here on Earth may find this hard to believe.  How can God forgive a rapist, murderer or even a child abuser?  Isaiah answers this by stating that the way God thinks is not the way we think. His thoughts are beyond ours.  Many atheists have trouble understanding why God allows evil.  How can God be good yet allow atrocities to occur? They think this way because they do not understand what is really going on. They do not know the ways of the Lord nor understand how He thinks.  Who has known the mind of God or has been His psychologist (1 Corinthians 2:16)?

We can get brain damage trying to philosophize the mind of God and why He allows evil. This is the worst way to understand, or try to understand. It is via faith that we begin to understand how God works, thinks and operates. Notice I wrote, "begin to understand."  This is because we can never totally understand God and His thoughts or ways. We are limited creatures interacting with an infinite Supreme Being. Trying to understand God's thoughts and ways is like trying to put the entire ocean into a small hole as in the vision St. Augustine had of the young boy who told him this(see:

However, we exist not to psychoanalyze God, but to know of Him, love and serve Him. Along the way we mess up and fall into sin. These sins are the not last say. God will forgive them if we seek Him while He is still found. We can go to Confession and remove the burden of sin.  Again, we have a limited amount of time to do this because at death or the end of time we will be held accountable (Hebrews 9:27).

This is why the responsorial psalm says that God is near to those who call upon Him.  The Psalm goes on to remind us how awesome is God.  Despite being God, He is forgiving, kind and merciful. Everything God does is just and holy.  The Psalmist is reminding us that God us someone we can trust who is there when we call on Him.  God respects our free will and will not force Himself into our lives (Sirach 15).  We must be the ones to seek Him.  This is why atheists have trouble "finding evidence" for God. They are unwilling to pray and seek God.  Because of this, God will not fully reveal Himself to them because they chose not to have Him in their lives.

In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us that Christ is the goal. We live and die for Christ.  This is why he seems to be looking forward to dying because He will receive His reward: Jesus.  It is important to stress that no Christian should seek death just to be with God. St. Francis of Assisi fell into this temptation by desiring to be a martyr. We cannot go about in life wanting to die for God.  If it happens, then so be it, but this is not our choice. Martyrdom has more worth when it happens on its own and is not planned by a Christian. Living life is important.  This is why St. Paul says that it is better that he remained in the flesh so that he can produce more fruitful labor.  The goal of a Christian is not to die, but to die to sin (Romans 6:2).

Finally in the Gospel we read of the Parable of the laborers. Jesus tells the story of a landowner who went out to hire workers to tend the vineyard. Some got hired and worked while others were idle and them put to work.  However, each of them got paid the same thing despite working different hours.  This brought about complaints from those workers who were working longer, yet received the same pay as those who worked less.  They felt that the landowner was cheating them.  This parable tells us that God gives the same "wage" to each of us. The wage is His grace and forgiveness.  We are all capable of receiving this "wage" regardless of our state in life.  Some of us may have believed in God since we first began to talk while others may begin to believe later in life.  The ones who believed longer did not "build up" more than those who began to believe later on in life.  God calls both to Himself.  Both have God as the goal.

This ties in with the first reading where we read that we must seek God while He may be found.  The landowner is God looking for workers for His vineyard.  If we want to get "wages," we must seek Him when He comes to hire.  Those of us who have been "on the job" longer, must not complain about those who joined us later on. This is why we must be welcoming of those who are received into the Church every Easter. Being Catholic is not a competition of who can go to more Masses, pray more or do "Catholic things" the best.  We are all in this vineyard together working.

Last year, a photo of Pope Francis struck me well. In the photo, he is sitting in a chapel; not in the
front on a throne, but in the back. It is an extremely awkward looking photo of the Pope in his white papal cassock sitting in the back.  There is no media or Catholic frenzy about him as we seek when he walks about or travels in vehicles.  Rather, he was there alone in the back.  This reminded me of what the Gospel today closes with: "Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last."

How many of us want to be the first in everything?  Recently, the new Iphone 6 device was released.  People lined up before stores opened to purchase one.  Some even slept outside for days!  It is sad that these people go to all this trouble for a piece of metal, silicon, glass and plastic instead of for God. The same happens when new Jordan sneakers are released. We see long lines of youth outside of Foot Locker or stores that sell sneakers. They want to be the first to have these items.  In their ignorance, they believe that these material things will give them status or worth.  In today's Gospel, it is the landowner (God) who gives us worth.  He is the one who pays the wages.  Being the first in everything only shows that we are desperate. Jesus reminds us that those who are humble and are last, will be the first to enter Heaven.  These are the people who accept what happens in life. They do not complain or whine.  To them, it is God's will and they happily accept it.  In many cases, it is a good idea to be last in line.  If an emergency happens, those in the front will be the ones in trouble while those in the last of the line can make a run for it!  Let us learn to be humble and remain the last in line.  We do not have any claim to salvation so we should not rush to the front of the line believing we will be saved first.  Not everyone who shouts "Lord Lord" will be saved (Matthew 7:21-23).


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Atheism Dilemma VI

Atheists are not fond of the "intelligent design" argument.  They respond to this argument that processes in nature are responsible for the apparent "designs" in nature and that no intelligent conscious agent is necessary for such construction.

They will cite abiogenesis as a way to "disprove" intelligent design (see: Atheism Dilemma III). Perhaps they may even cite the "faults" in creation, or the "hostility" of the universe against life (See; Atheism is Stupid V).

Dr. Richard Dawkins in his book "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design" writes, "To explain the origin of the DNA/protein machine by invoking a supernatural Designer is to explain precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer. You have to say something like 'God was always there', and if you allow yourself that kind of lazy way out, you might as well just say 'DNA was always there', or "Life was always there',  and be done with it."  Is this true?  Does "new atheist" Richard Dawkins have a point here? Many atheists believe so and follow his arguments like doctrine.  They repeat his ideas over and over which can almost sound like elderly ladies praying the Rosary.

Those who call themselves "Creationists" posit the idea of Irreducible Complexity which means that
Bacterium Flagellum
things in nature are so complex that removing one part of them will render them useless.  The premise is that the thing has to be designed for a specific purpose and when parts of the thing are removed, the purpose ceases. The Bacterium Flagellum is often cited as an example. It is the "tail" some prokaryotic and eukaryotic bacteria cells have.

What is interesting about this organelle is that it seems to look like a "machine" of sorts.  This "machine" looks like it is turning around almost like a sprocket. The flagellar proteins that make up the basal body allow the hook to move around making the "tail" of the bacterium move allowing for transportation and maneuvering.  Biologist David J. DeRosier wrote in a journal, "More so than other motors, the flagellum resembles a machine designed by a human. (David J. DeRosier, Cell 93, 17 (1998))"  The wording of this statement is often used by Creationists to posit that the Bacterium Flagellum is indeed a "machine" in nature.  However, we know via Evolution that other organisms such as the Yersinia Pestis have similar flagella structures that do not move due to lack of specific proteins. The Yersinia Pestis is the organism that causes the Bubonic plague by injecting toxins using a "needle" which looks similar to the Bacterium Flagellum. The argument is then made when comparing the Yersinia Pestis and Bacterium Flagellum that things or organisms in nature are not made for a purpose. They simply evolved to fit an organism's existence and the environment it exists in.

Yersinia Pestis
Atheists often rely on these comparisons in nature to make the case that Evolution brought about the existence of the variety of lifeforms via random processes.  They may often quickly jump to the conclusion that God does not exist.

However is this so?  Does the fact that organelles or structures in nature that seem to have a purpose actually do not and were the result of an unguided Evolutionary process that works on randomness?  This is open to debate, but I posit that this is in fact the case but that it has an intelligence behind it.  The overall problem that I see here is that atheists believe that God is a micro-manager.  They apparently see God as this creative agent who comes in nature as "deus ex machina" and has to monitor each creation, tweaking it here and there as the "flaws" appear in creation.

How can we tell "design" from "random processes?"

This is a big question that is difficult to really answer if we take a solely scientific position.  For the moment, I will revert back to being an atheist and will become a devil's advocate.

We all know of the monolithic structure named "Stonehenge" in Wiltshire, England.  These structures are made of huge rocks and seem to be in a circular position in the middle of a field.  To date, no one really knows why they are there, who/what made or constructed them (if they were made/constructed), and what was their purpose.  Some even believe the structure was created by extraterrestrials!  This idea is due to the massiveness of the stones which would have made it extremely improbably that ancient peoples in the area moved them using their own strength since the machinery used today did not exist then.  Moreover, the bluestones they are made of come from miles away which I will go more into depth as I write this post.

What is interesting is that Design Inference is given when studying these structures.  Archaeologists, Geologists and other scientific professionals automatically assume that these structures were designed or created by human beings.  This is interesting because it seems to contradict the stance in the Evolution debate that things appear due to random processes and are not designs from an intelligent conscious agent.  If this is the case, then we can see a clear bias among atheists and some in the scientific community who rely on word play when it comes to describing what is a result of random processes in nature and what is designed by an intelligence of some sort.

As a skeptic and atheist now (pretending), I will state that Stonehenge is the result of natural geological random processes.  I will use several examples to support this claim.

Devil's Mountain/Tower
1. "Devil's Mountain/Tower" in Wyoming.

This structure in Wyoming is a famous natural formation.  It was even used in the movie "Close Encounters" as the base for aliens who visited Earth. From a distance, the mountain is humongous.  As you get closer, you will notice that it has a unique structure that seems to defy nature. In a sense, it looks like it was constructed by human beings.  The outside of it almost looks like the facade of the World Trade Center's "Twin Towers."  However, unlike the "Twin Towers," the "Devil's Mountain/Tower" was not created or constructed by human beings.  There were no construction workers going about carrying construction materials as they built the mountain.  This mountain came to be via natural geological processes.

Geology tells us that the majority of the Devil's Mountain/Tower is composed of sedimentary rocks
Facade of "Twin Towers"
that were dissolved by water, wind or weathering. During the Triassic time period which was about 220 to 190 million years ago, there was a sea that surrounded and covered most of the central and western regions of the United States of America.

We know this because there is dark red sandstone, maroon siltsone, shale and other rocks that are found in the Belle Fourch river.  As the landscaped changed due to the receding of this sea and the appearance of magma which cooled forming phonolite porphyr, the "Devil's Tower" was formed from this process.  As the phonolite porphyr cooled, it formed columns that are separated by vertical cracks along the facade of the tower.  With weathering, the remaining sedimentary rocks eroded and began to wear away around the tower making it look as it was a column of sorts that was placed there being that the rest of the land is much lower.

In light of the facts that we know surrounding the formation of the "Devil's Mountain/Tower," I can say that Stonehenge was formed in a similar manner.  The  dolerite bluestones that compose the monolithic structure that we call Stonehenge come from an outcropping called Carn Meini which is on high ground in the Preseli hills of Wales just 2 miles away. Earth has had several Ice age periods where landscaped became completely covered with thick sheets of ice.  As the Ice Age came to a close and the climate changed, these sheets of thick ice melted down to mere glaciers that carried these large monolithic structures made of dolerite bluestone to its current location. The presence of the River Avon that empties into the Bristol Channel shows the water which remained from the last Ice Age.  It was there at what we now call Stonehenge that the huge stones rested.  They same process will happen again in the next Ice Age.  These stones will be moved to another location and may perhaps form a triangle or square.  It is not uncommon for stones to move.  We see this with the "sailing stones" at Death Valley in the United States.

As you can see, there is no reason whatsoever to suspect that Stonehenge was "designed" by an intelligent agent; in this case, man.  The natural processes we are aware of can create these structures without the need of intelligence, free will, tools or consciousness.  Therefore, the idea that the universe has an intelligent designer is illogical and ignorant of the ability of nature to develop things via random processes.  In 2005, the Discovery Institute had this to say, "Of course there's no way to falsify a mere assertion that a cosmic designer exists. This much we are agreed on."

How can we? Where would we look for to find this "cosmic designer?"

How many of you bought into this argument that Stonehenge was created via natural geological processes?  I am confident many of you think I am crazy for even suggesting that.  Do you see the dilemma here that atheism has?  Atheists and scientists who subscribe to the idea that the cosmos and all its contents can be explained via natural random processes will be quick to subscribe to the designer inference when it pertains to Stonehenge. There seems to be a double standard here or even cognitive dissonance.  Why do they accept evolution and the cosmos as being developed by random processes yet are quick to suspect that Stonehenge was created by primitive human beings thousands of years ago?  I clearly demonstrated how it is possible that Stonehenge was the result of natural geological processes.  What now?

What about formations outside of Earth?  Take these for example:

Here are some photos of the terrain of Mars, the fourth planet of our Solar System named after the "god of War."  In the first photo, we can clearly see "Valentine hearts."

Were these designed by Martians who were in love?

We know that this heart design is not typical in nature and is the result of human intelligence and creativity.  Human beings invented Valentine's day.  However, here they are on a foreign planet. How do we explain these?  Are these hearts natural formations or intelligent design at work?  The answer is the former.  These are natural formations that have occurred on Mars millions of years ago due to impacts from foreign bodies such as asteroids or meteors.

How about this famous image of the "Face on Mars?"  There was even a movie made years ago where humans explored Mars and discovered this face was a temple of sort where on astronaut activated a hologram of the extraterrestrials who inhabited Mars and who seeded Earth with their DNA.

Is this image a natural formation, intelligent design at work or just the human mind using pareidolia?  There is clearly a structure with a face.  What is it really?  Well we know this is a natural formation because it is part of the Martian terrain.  However, we also know that our brains are hardwired to spot facial features which makes this image an effect of pareidolia.  The angles of the structure create shadows which our brains give depth and dimension to.

What about this image that sort of looks like a Samurai or even Batman.


If we can disqualify these images as being the product of natural geological processes and cognitive compensation instead of the work of intelligent design, then why can we not disqualify by the same means the structures at Stonehenge?

It seems that atheists and some scientists hold a particular bias when it comes to processing the idea of an intelligent designer when it comes to the cosmos and biological life.  Despite knowledge showing that DNA is extremely complicated and the odds against the formation of DNA by chance alone are 10^40,000 to 1, atheists and some scientists are quick to dismiss intelligent design (Hoyle, 1981).  A scientist is supposed to be able to think freely and process any hypotheses.  Once he or she dismisses ideas without properly studying them, he or she is committing one of the mortal sins of experimental science: confirmation bias.  If a scientist enters research already convinced of the outcome, then that research is tainted with his or her bias and must be thrown out.

Atheists and those scientists who are quick to dismiss the possibility of intelligent design are falling into this bias and therefore disqualified their objectivity.  How can we trust their research, ideas and opinions?  This is a big dilemma for atheists if they resort to cherry picking when something is either formed via natural random processes or when it is the work of human beings, or intelligent design based on their bias.  I will continued on this topic in the next installment Atheism Dilemma VII using coding and how God does not have to be a micro-manager; therefore refuting the "god of gaps" fallacy atheists often subscribe to.

Editor's Note:  There seems to be some confusion regarding my hypothetical scenario which I described in this post to make a point of how atheists and some scientists tend to assume design inference in some cases and in others cases, random natural processes.  A Twitter user who created a blog fixated on me is claiming that I posted errors regarding Stonehenge and the origin of stones used in its construction.  The reality of the matter is that this individual does not comprehend what he reads and is only looking to discredit my posts via false accusation.

I wrote:

"As a skeptic and atheist now (pretending)."  Then later on in the post I start with: "I can say..."

These phrases clearly indicate that my intention was to posit a hypothetical scenario where I (pretending to be an atheist) again am using random natural processes over design inference in order to explain the causation of Stonehenge.

Anyone who does not understand this nor does not understand hypothetical scenarios or prose in this case needs to take remedial courses in reading comprehension.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Scotland Decides

After months of campaigning for independence, Scotland voters have decided to remain united to the United Kingdom.  Prime Minister David Cameron was extremely happy with the decision. Many feared the separation would cause dire consequences for both territories, especially economically.

Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister had urged Scotland voters to vote for independence.  They did vote, but were on the losing side.  Over 86% of voters turned out to vote with 123,927 for "Yes" and 194,628 "No" votes, making it one of the largest turnouts.

The idea of having Scotland break away from the United Kingdom was seen as a push in the right direction. Supporters of this idea felt they needed to be independent. However, the majority of voters felt this change would have been too much for the territories and decided to leave well enough alone, so to speak.  Some claim voter fraud was involved see:

In my opinion, the idea of independence was not a bad idea. I know of a very powerful nation today who was once under the United Kingdom (the super power of the time) and broke away by force defeating Britain's powerful armies and replacing it by becoming the world's super power: the good old United States of America! :-)  

Let us pray for the United Kingdom and its territories that they find ways to share power and


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sergio Urrego

This news is so heart breaking that it is difficult to put it into words...

Sergio David Urrego was a young Colombian 16 year old who had many aspirations in life.  He wanted to study English in Australia and environmental engineering. However, all this changed when a teacher at Gimnasio Castillo Campestre school, a Catholic school in the capital of Colombia, Bogota found a photo of Urrego kissing another boy (his partner) on his cell phone. Apparently he and the other boy were sent to the school's ppsychologistfor an evaluation. The two boys were together for a month and a half, but this new situation forced Urrego's partner to tell his parents and they removed him from the school in an apparent move to keep both boys apart.

Because of the discovery of the photos on Sergio's phone, the school did not give his family his academic transcripts and prevented him from transferring to another school.  He was allegedly made to visit the psychologist regularly and was even suspended and accused of sexual harassment.  According to reports, he was also called an atheist and anarchist by school officials who saw him as mentally disturbed.  Like any typical teenager, Sergio took to Facebook to vent and posted a graphic with the words, 'MY sexuality is not my sin, it's my own paradise.'

He then posted on August 4, 2014 his last post:

'Goodbye cruel world
I'm leaving you today
Goodbye all you people
There's nothing you can say
To make me change
My mind

This message would follow his death.  Sergio David Urrego on August 4, 2014 would go to the roof of a shopping center and jump to his death.  He died three hours at the hospital.

The story is indeed tragic and depressing.  A young man decided to end it all after being allegedly harassed at school and apparently losing contact with his lover. I am not sure what really happened and am merely relying on news reports. However, it is clear something pushed this young man to the edge.  If indeed school employees at this Catholic school behaved this way, then it is truly sickening. It is a slap to the face of Christ.  There is no reason to harass a young boy to the point of him choosing to end his life because it was too much to bear.

The bullying of LGBT youth is a big problem throughout the world. Bullying happens to everyone, but it seems to be more frequent against youth who identify as LGBT.  They are seen as "strange" or "wierd" by their peers.  Others fear they will be "hit on" by these LGBT youth because they are obviously attracted to their same sex. LGBT youth many times feel no support and decide to commit suicide because the situaion seems hopeless.  In many cases, these young kids are closeted and revealing to their families their attraction may worsen the situation.

We all must address bullying in general, not just against LGBT youth. In 2014, no one should be harassed, mocked or made to feel as a pariah by others.  They should be able to attend school in a comfortable environment, make friends and enjoy their youth without becoming the punching bag of others. Kids can be mean to each other and it gets worse with each advancing generation.  More needs to be done to educate students on the harm bullying does. Students who are being bullied must be supported.  Their bullies must be punished and their parents must be notified immediately.  We should not have to hear of these stories of young kids killing themselves because of harassment.

Many support groups on Facebook have appeared honoring Sergio:  

While I disagree with the lifestyle young Sergio lived, he was still a human being made in God's image and deserved to be loved and respected by school officials and others. May Sergio David Urrego rest in peace.

If you are or know someone who is being bullied, please tell your parents/guardians, school officials and the police. You do not have to be a victim or a doormat for any other person(s). There is hope and support, never choose to harm yourself . This does not remedy the situation and will allow the bully to continue his/her bad behavior with someone else.  

For help:


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cardinal Dolan, Parade & Gays - My Thoughts

Some of you have been asking me what are my thoughts on the St. Patrick's parade and Cardinal Dolan "scandal."  I often remain neutral until I see all the facts.  Once I do, I then give my thoughts on the situation. Well here it goes...

For those of you who haven't kept up with this situation; basically, the St. Patrick's day parade committee of New York decided to allow a gay group to march in the parade under their own banner.  For decades any group representing a political ideology were banned from march, including Pro-life groups.  You can read more here:

This decision to allow a gay group to march was called a "wise decision" by Cardinal Dolan who is the Archbishop of New York.  He was also named the Grand Marshal for the 2015 parade and accepted with pride.  This angered some in the Catholic blogosphere, especially those who take a more "conservative" "traditional" approach to Catholicism.  Here are some of the blog links, tweets and even an angry judgmental video I found of reactionary Michael Voris who is banned in many dioceses from speaking.

Boy Cardinal Dolan has sure upset many people has he not??

Michael Voris went too far calling Cardinal Dolan "wicked" and that he's in the "grip of the devil."  I guess he - who has a degree in theology - missed the part of the Catechism that talks about Rash Judgment.  What he represents is not Catholicism but his own personal views.  He is a reactionary polemicist and not a Catholic evangelist.  Moreover, all these bloggers and columnists are overreacting to the situation.  Cardinal Dolan is not endorsing the LGBT lifestyle by being the Grand Marshal anymore than Pope Benedict XVI endorsed Communism & Atheism by being photographed with Fidel Castro.

These Catholic bloggers have a right to their own opinions and also a duty to voice their concern to their pastors:

Canon Law 212
§3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

However, they do not have a right to dictate whether or not a pastor is Catholic, nor judge him as being "wicked" or in the "grip of the devil."  Comments calling Cardinal Dolan a "liberal," "wicked bishop," or "unfit to be a successor of the Apostles" are totally uncalled for and unchristian. It is embarrassing to me as a Catholic reading these attacks against one of the princes of the Church who is merely performing his ministry of being a shepherd.  I understand the concern these Catholics have with the Cardinal's presence in the parade as a gay group marches and also understand that his words may have been interpreted as an endorsement of the LGBT lifestyle; however, this doesn't mean the sheep must become rabid and bite the shepherd.  

The problem here is that these writers do not understand what the Cardinal is trying to do.  Like a pastor, he is reaching out to those lost sheep who fell away due to personal sin and what not.  He is echoing the example of Pope Francis who said, "If someone is gay and seeking the Lord, who am I to judge?"  To my knowledge, this gay group that is marching will not be endorsing their lifestyle. There will be no gay floats with strippers nearly naked with their buttocks out, or sexually toned displays as seen in Gay Pride parades worldwide. These people will simply march with OutNBC banners.

Many of these bloggers argue that the allowance of these LGBT people will tarnish the image of St. Patrick or take away from the saint's holiness and heroic life; however, to my knowledge the St. Patrick's day parade is a celebration of Irish heritage and is not a Catholic celebration. There are no Rosaries prayed along the route, no processions with the relics of the saint, no litanies, no bishops in choir or religious banners.  The parade simply has men in kilts with bagpipes, members of different schools marching, marching bands, men & women in uniform and a few floats from sponsors.  There is no retelling of the St. Patrick legends, nor any catechesis offered.  For all intent and purposes, this parade is a secular parade.  The archbishop of New York has no say in the parade at all. Moreover, let me add that I found the participation of the Catholic League odd because of the parade's previous no political group stance since the Catholic League does present itself as a conservative group.

Anyhow, being Catholic does not mean that we have to treat non-Catholics or those who do not live as we do like social pariahs. This is far from what Christ wanted. We cannot be like the Pharisees who only had an elite group of Jews who they believed were in God's favor while the others were pieces of garbage lying in the street.  Jesus ate and drank with the sinners and sought the pariahs of His time even though they were not in conformity with Jewish law (Mark 2:13-17).  It is embarrassing that many times even atheists and gay people themselves have to remind Christians of this.

Our Holy Father has warned us all not to fall into Catholic Triumphalism.  We must not go about with head held high believing Catholics are the best.  As human beings, we all have fallen short of the grace of God and should not boast even though we may have the fullness of the truth in the Catholic Church (Romans 3:23).

To the Catholics protesting Cardinal Dolan I say: gays are our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, cousins and nephews.  They are everywhere whether we want to admit it or not. Most importantly, they are children of God and deserve our love, respect and welcome.  Who are we to judge?  Which one of us is fit to throw stones at Cardinal Dolan or the LGBT community?  Jesus asked the same question to those who thought they held the power to judge the moral character and salvation status of others (John 8:7).  He questioned those who thought they had the authority to be judge, jury and executioner.  In reality, if we had the right to throw stones at others because of their sins then we all would be comatose right about now because each one of us is a sinner!

The catechism calls us to love homosexuals and be welcoming of them.  Homosexuality is NOT a sin, homosexual acts are.  Identifying oneself as homosexual is not a sin, therefore a gay group marching at the parade identifying themselves as Irish homosexuals is not immoral.

CCC 2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
In my opinion, Cardinal Dolan did nothing wrong and followed what the Catechism says: "Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."  We as Catholics are sinners and must be open to other sinners. How many of us go to Mass and then go home and do everything contrary to Catholicism?  How dare we judge others who do not go to Mass and may publicly do everything contrary to Catholicism?  We do the same thing with the only difference that we are within the Catholic Church.  This is because we all are sinners, but Catholics who practice their faith chose to do something about this spiritual condition.  We must invite others, including the LGBT to do something about their spiritual condition and join us in the clinic of salvation - the Church- where the doctor Jesus Christ is present to heal our wounds and the wounds sin has caused us.  We must meet them where they are at in the journey as Pope Francis has stressed many times.  

1 Peter 4:8 says:  "Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins."  This is what Cardinal Dolan and Pope Francis are doing and are giving us an example to do. We must use love to cover the "multitude of sins" often publicly demonstrated by the LGBT without shame.  Love conquers all things including the proudest of sinners (1 Corinthians 13).  By showing the LGBT people that we love them instead of treating them as pariahs we will plant the seeds of faith.  God will take care of the rest by providing His transforming grace upon them.  We must not become like the Westboro cult which promotes a psuedo-Christianity full of hate and contempt of people they deem unfit for God.  Unfortunately, the bloggers criticizing Cardinal Dolan are falling into this false Christianity by believing that being Catholic means one must set up a barrier that pushes others away.  Moreover, they have disrespected the authority of our pastors by positing rash judgments based on an exaggerated Catholic zeal and misunderstanding that flirts with Catholic Triumphalism.  

They have failed at obeying Canon law 212: 

Can. 212 §1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.

What Cardinal Dolan is doing is described in this Canon law.  He is representing Christ by walking with the sinners and sharing God's love to them reminding them that they are always welcomed to come back.  St. Patrick did the same.  Those bloggers who claim gays marching in the parade dishonor St. Patrick do not understand his work.  St. Patrick went out to the "pariahs" of his day: the Druids. The Druids were the Pagans who populated Ireland.  They believed all kinds of strange myths and practiced many rituals. Some historians believe that homosexuality was part of these religious rituals (Hughes, 50-51).  However, St. Patrick comes along and does not tell them to go away, but converts them.  He walks among them preaching to them Jesus Christ the Lord and Savior.  Imagine if St. Patrick did as these Catholic bloggers suggest Cardinal Dolan do and reject the Druids and only stick with his own kind (Catholics), what would have been the outcome of Ireland?  Instead, St. Patrick went to them.  He took on the "scent of the sheep" as Pope Francis has said pastors must do today.  He went "duc in altum" or "out into the deep (Luke 5:4)" where the light hardly touches and went to fish out the Pagans and bring them to the light of Christ. 

Cardinal Dolan is no different.  As a shepherd, he is going "out into the deep" to fish.  He explained it well on his blog:

September 17, 2014Explaining My Decision to Serve as Grand Marshalhaven’t been in this much hot water since I made the comment, right after I arrived as your archbishop five-and-a-half years ago, that Stan Musial—my boyhood hero of my hometown St. Louis Cardinals—was a much better ballplayer than Joe DiMaggio!
Now I’m getting as much fiery mail and public criticism over my decision to accept the honor of Grand Marshal of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. According to the critics, I should have refused, due to the Parade Committee’s decision to allow a group of self-identified Gays of Irish ancestry to march in the parade with their own banner.
As with Stan Musial, I’ll stand by my decision. However, enough of you have courteously expressed some confusion and dismay, that, as your pastor, I owe you an explanation. Let me try.
For one, the decision to change the parade protocol was not mine. The archbishops of New York have never been “in charge” of the parade. Although my predecessors and I have always enjoyed friendly cooperation with the Parade Committee—and still do—and deeply appreciate the identity of the Parade as a celebration purely of Irish heritage, intimately linked to the Catholic Faith, we’ve never had a say in Parade policy or the choice of the Grand Marshal. Nor did we expect or want one!
So, in the current “brawl,” (they have been hardly rare in the Parade’s grand 253-year history!), I did not make the decision! You will recall that I in the past often expressed support for the former policy—that the only banners and identification to be carried was that the group was Irish—and that I found it logical and fair. To those who charged that the policy was “anti-Gay,” I often observed that no one person, Gay or not, was excluded from the parade. This was simply a reasonable policy about banners and public identification, not about the sexual inclinations of participants.
I did not oppose the former policy; nor did I push, condone, or oppose the new one. While the Parade committee was considerate in advising me of the change, they did not ask my approval, nor did they need to.
However, I admit that, for most folks, this is not the reason they are upset with me, and this brings us to point two. Many of you, while acknowledging that the decision to change policy was not mine, feel strongly that I should protest it, publicly condemn it, no longer support the Parade, and refuse the invitation to serve as Grand Marshal.
While a handful have been less than charitable in their reactions, I must admit that many of you have rather thoughtful reasons for criticizing the committee’s decision: you observe that the former policy was fair; you worry that this is but another example of a capitulation to an “aggressive Gay agenda,” which still will not appease their demands; and you wonder if this could make people think the Church no longer has a clear teaching on the nature of human sexuality.
Thank you for letting me know of such concerns. I share some of them.
However, the most important question I had to ask myself was this: does the new policy violate Catholic faith or morals? If it does, then the Committee has compromised the integrity of the Parade, and I must object and refuse to participate or support it.
From my review, it does not. Catholic teaching is clear: “being Gay” is not a sin, nor contrary to God’s revealed morals. Homosexual actions are—as are any sexual relations outside of the lifelong, faithful, loving, lifegiving bond of a man and woman in marriage—a moral teaching grounded in the Bible, reflected in nature, and faithfully taught by the Church.
So, while actions are immoral, identity is not! In fact, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, people with same-sex attraction are God’s children, deserving dignity and respect, never to be treated with discrimination or injustice.
To the point: the committee’s decision allows a group to publicize its identity, not promote actions contrary to the values of the Church that are such an essential part of Irish culture. I have been assured that the new group marching is not promoting an agenda contrary to Church teaching, but simply identifying themselves as “Gay people of Irish ancestry.”
If the Parade Committee allowed a group to publicize its advocacy of any actions contrary to Church teaching, I’d object. As Cardinal John O’Connor remarked, we do not change the Creed—and I’d add, the Ten Commandments—to satisfy political correctness.
In fact, the leaders of the Parade Committee tried to be admirably sensitive to Church teaching. They worried that the former policy was being interpreted as bias, exclusion, and discrimination against a group in our city, which, if true, would also be contrary to Church teaching. While they were quick to acknowledge that, in reality, the policy was not unfair at all, they were also realistic in worrying that the public perception was the opposite, no matter how often they tried to explain its coherence and fairness.
I found their sensitivity wise, and publicly said so.
If, in doing so, I have shown an insensitivity to you, I apologize.
I share the hope of the organizers that the March 17th parade will be loyal to its proud heritage of celebrating Irish identity, culture, and contributions—all a beautiful part of Catholicism— thus bringing this great community together in unity and festivity, and look forward to leading it as Grand Marshal.  

Phil Lawler, Pat Archbold, Michael Voris et al do not understand what it means to be a Catholic pastor. They are simply laymen who see the Church through the layman's eye.  Their pride in their interpretation of the Catholic faith blinds them to God's attempt to call everyone home via the shepherds of the Church.  The very fact that they give themselves the post of deciding who is a "true successor of the Apostles" demonstrates this pride that paves the path to a blind faith based on adherence to what they deem "traditional" or "conservative."  As Mother Angelica of EWTN once said, "I don't want to be conservative and I don't want to be liberal. I want to be Catholic (Arroyo, 209)"  We are supposed to be simply Catholic welcoming others to the faith, not creating our own secret social club where no one who fits our measuring stick can enter.

Deal Hudson does not understand friendship.  Being a friend does not mean one must espouse their cause.  This is never what is expected of any friend. "Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies" as philosopher Aristotle described. Cardinal Dolan is not espousing the cause of the LGBT by being welcoming.  Do I have to stop being friends with Gays, Atheists, Protestants, Muslims, Feminists because we do not share the same cause?  No, of course not!  It is via our friendship that we share love which hopefully will open hearts to God and His will, God who is love (1 John 4:8).  

Let us welcome with open arms all of God's children: those within the Church and those who for now do not want part of her.  Let God be the judge and instead, let us focus on making our case before this judge when we meet Him face to face instead of deciding the cases of others in this world.           

Monday, September 15, 2014

Our Lady of Sorrows

Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows.  This is a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary and is not another Virgin Mary as some Protestants and atheists such as the late Christopher Hitchens thought.  There is only one Virgin Mary. The Church has several titles for her.  This title is a commemoration of the sorrows that Mary faced.

A chaplet remember these exists and is comprised of saying one Our Father and seven Hail Marys after each of these events:

The Prophecy of Simeon. (Luke 2:34–35) or the Circumcision of Christ
The Flight into Egypt. (Matthew 2:13)
The loss of the child Jesus in the Temple. (Luke 2:43–45)
Mary meets Jesus on the way to Calvary.
Jesus dies on the cross. (John 19:25)
The piercing of the side of Jesus, and Mary's receiving the body of Jesus in her arms. (Matthew 27:57–59)
The body of Jesus is placed in the tomb. (John 19:40–42)
These Seven Sorrows should not be confused with the five Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.

Mary suffered a lot during her lifetime.  While she didn't suffer like her son Jesus, Mary did suffer with Him as she watched Him carry the Cross and die.  Mary was like any mother who suffers whenever a child suffers. Imagine watching your son being harassed, arrested, spit on, and killed?  The pain can be immeasurable. This tells us how human Mary was despite knowing her son was God.

Celebrating Our Lady under this title of Our Lady of Sorrows began in Cologne, Germany.  Prior to this in 1233, the Servite Order. Devotion began to spread throughout Europe among different orders with some even adopting the black scapular which is used by the Servite Order.

Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows should recall the passion of Christ and how we should unite our suffering to His. As a role model, Mary shows us how to be truly human experiencing sorrow and suffering for the sake of Christ and not use it to bring self-pity or give up on life. I recall this feast day well because it was the first time I ever drank from the chalice.

May Our Lady of Sorrows pray for us.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Today September 14 we celebrate the feast day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross - also known as the Triumph of the Holy Cross. We remember the Holy Cross which brought redemption and salvation to the world. Jesus Christ came from heaven born of a Virgin, lived among us and died on a Cross for all of us.

The Cross was the death penalty during Jesus' time. It was a punishment made for the worst criminal. God desired to use this instrument to save the world and bring redemption to mankind. Humanity got into trouble by eating of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Cross became the new Tree of Life that would undo this.

St. Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine sought to find the True Cross in Jerusalem. The Cross was buried by Roman officials and was discovered after a Jewish man named Judas guided St. Helena to its location. One tradition states that after the excavation, three crosses were found. One of them had an inscription Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum or "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." Tests were conducted to verify this to be the True Cross. It was taken to people who were sick and they were healed. A dead man was even restored to life after being laid upon the Cross.

Churches were constructed over the sites of the Holy Sepulchre and on Mount Calvary to mark forever the locations of the event of the Crucifixion.  They were dedicated on September 14 in the year 335.

The Cross is an important symbol for Christians.  It is the symbol of salvation.  God became man and suffered a horrible death in order to save His human people.  The Tau symbol (T) was used in the Old Testament as a sign of repentance.  Even Philosopher Plato alluded to the Just Man being Crucified:

To the best of my ability," he replied, "... it becomes an easy matter, I fancy, to unfold the tale of the sort of life that awaits each. We must tell it, then; and even if my language is somewhat rude and brutal, you must not suppose, Socrates, that it is I who speak thus, but those who commend injustice above justice. What they will say is this: that such being his disposition the just man will have to endure the lash, the rack, chains, the branding-iron in his eyes, and finally, after every extremity of suffering, he will be crucified, and so will learn his lesson that not to be but to seem just is what we ought to desire. Republic II. 361D-362A

Was God preparing the Pagan world for the "Just Man" Jesus Christ through the wisdom of Plato?

In the first reading, we read about the Hebrews complaining against God and Moses.  Moses had just
brought them out of the land of Egypt where they were held captive.  Now in the desert, they are complaining of lack of food and water.  God gave them manna to eat, but they have grown tired of this food calling it disgusting.  How grateful huh?

God had enough of them and sent seraph serpents which bit them causing many of them to die from the poison.  The people woke up from their ungratefulness and pleaded with Moses to ask God to have mercy on them.  God did and told Moses to make a bronze serpent and place it on a pole.  Whoever looked at this serpent was healed.  This is interesting, especially for me who was an atheist.  Atheists often claim that God is evil.  They use verses like these found in Numbers to show how God is some angry entity who inflicts suffering on people. However, in this text we see how God brings good out of evil.  He uses the same instrument of punishment as a means to bring healing. This reading is related to Jesus' cross.  Jesus said that He will be lifted just like Moses' lifted the serpent.  This act will bring eternal life to those who believe in Him. We will read this in the Gospel today.

The Cross in Roman times was a symbol of criminality, shame, and guilt. Citizens feared it because it was the ultimate form of capital punishment in the Roman Empire. Jesus took this dreaded symbol and transformed it just like God transformed the scary image of a poisonous snake into one that brings healing. As a matter of fact, this image is still used today in the medical field.

God can bring good from evil.  God can transform evil into a good.  Nothing is beyond the power of God.  The age-old philosophical debate on God and the existence of evil is a circular argument that doesn't take into account the power and awesomeness of God who controls every scenario and situation.  Let me also add that our separated brothers and sisters in the Protestant faith often criticize Catholics for having images and statues.  Here in this reading we read how God commands the construction of a graven image and uses it to bring healing.  

In the responsorial psalm, we read how we shouldn't forget the works of the Lord.  The psalm recalls the ways God has aided His people in the Old Testament.  However, we as Christians should recall today how God continues to aid His people.  We must not forget the ultimate act God has done which is His death upon the cross.  That act would redeem the world and open up the doors to salvation for all, not just the Jews.

The second reading is interesting in that it says that Jesus "did not regard equality with God something to be grasped." This verse is often used by Jehovah Witnesses and others who claim Jesus is just a "demi-god."  St. Paul seems to say that Jesus is not equal to God; however, we need to read the rest to understand what he means.  Jesus was God and is God. However, He has two natures: Divine and Human.  Both are united in one personhood.  The human nature He possessed was weak just like ours.  This is why St. Paul says that Jesus "emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave; and found human in appearance."  Jesus became one of us in body form. This is where He did not have equality with God because His human body was weak and finite. Jesus was not like "Superman" who was indestructible. He could have come that way to Earth, but chose not to because He wanted to be one of us and wanted to show how seriously in love He is with humanity that He would die for us in a horrible manner.  This is why St. Paul says, "He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross."  As stated before, the cross was a bad symbol in Rome. Jesus humbled Himself to the point of even dying in a shameful way as a "criminal." Moreover, He allowed Himself to be truly human by experiencing all things we experience, including pain and death.

Finally in the Gospel, we read how Jesus compares Himself to the serpent Moses lifted in the desert.  He was referring to His crucifixion which would bring redemption to all the world.  Death entered the world through the sin of Adam and Eve so Christ used death to bring the world out of sin and opened the doors to salvation.

He became one of us in all things but sin and redeemed us (Colossians 2:14).  Just like the serpent which at first brought death and then health, the cross was an instrument of death.  The Romans used it as capital punishment.  Jesus transformed this instrument of death into one of life, salvation and healing (1 Peter 2:24)  He showed to the world that He is God and has triumphed with the Cross, a symbol of death used by the Roman government to scare citizens (Colossians 2:15).  This is why Christians weren't ashamed or afraid to use crosses or make the sign of the Cross.  They were no longer afraid of this symbol because Christ transformed it giving them courage to even face crucifixion themselves (Galatians 6:14).  The Cross which was once a symbol of failure, shame, criminality is now the symbol of triumph over sin, evil and death.      

Let us take this day to reflect on the Cross of Christ.  We all should accept and carry the Crosses our Lord gives us in life.  As a reminder, we should also carry a crucifix on our self.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless You, because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.



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