Saturday, March 31, 2018

Easter Vigil: Jesus is the Light

"Death, you shall die in me; hell, you shall be destroyed by me." (Liturgy of the Hours, vol II pg 509).

Today is Holy Saturday.  We anticipate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.   The above opening is from the evening prayer for Holy Saturday found in the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours.  It is a powerful opening to the psalter.  In the evening, the faithful gather outside of their parish. The Easter Vigil is about to take place.  A fire is lit and blessed.  The priest or deacon holds a large candle called the Paschal Candle.  The candle goes through a ritual of preparation.

Wax knobs are placed within the cross engraved in the candle symbolizing Christ's 5 wounds.  The priest then traces the cross reminding us that Christ is the beginning and end, all time belongs to Him and to Him be all the glory and honor.

The priest then lights this candle as a sign of Christ's light that will light the darkness in us.  The candle is then taken into the Church building and the priest or deacon says, "Christ our light" while raising it high.  All response, "thanks be to God."  All present have smaller candles.  They then light theirs from the Paschal candle showing this transfer of Christ's light to them.  The Church is pitch black, holy water fonts are empty.  It is like entering an abandoned building that has no signs of life.

As all process with their candles and the larger flame of the Paschal Candle enters closer to the sanctuary, the Church building starts to show signs of life, so to speak.  The Exsultet is now sung which is the Church's proclamation that Christ has risen. The Gloria is then signaled, all the lights of the building are lit, the Church bells rings.  Jesus Christ has risen!

The Liturgy of the Word follows and then the Rite of Baptism where we renew our Baptismal vows. The Catechumens and Candidates who have prepared to received the Sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion) are brought forward and receive them.  The rest of the Liturgy continues as a regular Sunday Mass would.

This is considered one of the most beautiful Liturgies in the Catholic Church.  Everything about it speaks to every sense of the human body.  We see the darkness and lights, hear the chants and bells, smell the incense, touch the wax and feel the heat of the Paschal candle as fire is transferred and the holy water as it is sprinkled, we taste the Holy Eucharist.  Jesus is Risen and this Liturgy shows it well.

The ceremony is focused on both light and dark; life and death.

What is light?  
Physics tells us that it is electromagnetic radiation made up of photons that are detectable by the
human eye as well as the eyes of other organisms.  It is composed of many wavelengths, not all of which are capable of being detected and processed by the human eye. The human eye can only detect the spectrum of wavelengths from about 650 nanometers where red is present and about 400 nanometers where violet is detected.

Light is the fastest substance in the universe traveling at 186,282 miles per second. Light presents to us spatial and temporal information of things around us. Matter in the universal absorbs and reflects light waves.  Depending on the charges of particles in an object, light is absorbed and some of it is reflected back allowing our eyes to see the object and its color(s) when the light enters the eye into the cones which process the information in the brain.  Nothing can travel faster or as fast as it. Despite this knowledge of light, we still do not truly understand it. However, light is extremely important for life to truly evolve and progress in nature.

In Scripture, light is mentioned many times.  As a matter of fact, it is first mentioned in the third verse of Genesis chapter 1. God says "let there be light." In fact, photons were the first particles to appear in the infant universe.  Prior to this, the author describes existence as dark and desolate. Darkness is something most of us do not like. When we are in the dark, we get moody, depressed and sleepy. Our energy drains from our bodies and we feel lethargic especially during winter time when there is less light (Eastman et. al, 1998).  Psychologists call this "Seasonal Affective Disorder" or "Winter Blues."  The changes in lighting effects the production of melatonin. This goes to show how powerful light and darkness are.  They affect us in many ways. As the weather warms in spring and we see more daylight, we get cheerful and have a "bounce in our step." Light livens everything up.

Darkness may seem powerful.  It engulfs everything. However, it blinds and creates dangerous scenarios. Despite this, light is so powerful that it stands out even in the darkest area. The stars in the sky shine brightly against the darkness of the universe. These stars are light years away and despite this, their light reaches our eyes here on Earth. The light from our own sun takes 8 minutes to reach us, yet it is powerful enough to warm our planet and illuminate the material that composes it.

The Paschal candle reminds us of light.  Christ is the light.  We all walked in darkness as Isaiah 9:2 says. As I stated before, darkness is dangerous. Without light, we get disoriented and our brain has a difficult time processing spatial information by using stored memories of an environment and sounds. Psychologists call this "Sensory Deprivation" or "Spatial Disorientation."  Most of us have lived in our homes for many years and know it well.  However, this familiarity changes when we try to walk in the dark. We will stumble on things or crash into a wall most of the time.  Our souls when they are in darkness stumble as well (John 11:10).  We do not know where we are at and walk about until we fall in sin.

In today's world full of atheistic existentialism and relativism, we are getting lost in strange philosophies that push God away in favor of man's formulations of morality and his social constructions.  This is the "new god" that is blinding many societies today into rejecting the reality of life in the womb and setting aside the natural complementary union between a man and woman for counterfeit unions (2 Corinthians 4:4).  Jesus, the Light of the World (John 9:5) came into the world to illuminate humanity (John 1:4) and it still rejects this light in preference of the darkness (John 3:19).  The human being is stubborn in this way.  Evil and sin always seem to be "fun" while good and holiness is the pastime of boring people or prudes.  This is the Concupiscence in us driving us to incline towards the bad (CCC 405).

The Easter Vigil reminds us of this.  The church building is dark. We are in the dark without Christ. Despite this immense darkness, the small flame from the Paschal Candles is enough to light the way as we enter the church building.  This small flame allows us to enter without stumbling.  As the people light their candles from the Paschal Candle, the light grows more intense and we begin to see each other's faces more.  The light of Christ restores the image of God in us.  The light we receive must not be hidden, nor should we fall back into darkness for we are children of the light (1 Thessalonians 5:5). 

We must go out into the dark world and illumine it just like each star illumines the night sky despite being small in appearance in contrast of the immense darkness of the universe.  Our Christian lives must be witness to Christ Jesus.  This is why Pope Francis has been centering his Papacy on Christian witness.  The light that we receive from Christ must not be so bright that it blinds others.  Nor should it burn them to the point of scaring them away.  We must be humble and present the light of Christ with love.

Christ is indeed the light that continues to shine even in this dark world.  He is risen!  Christ won, he defeated darkness and death (1 Corinthians 15:55)!  His resurrection stated loudly what the antiphon for vespers says, "Death, you shall die in me; hell, you shall be destroyed by me."  Jesus is both the Lord of life and death. 

He is with us and will return at the end of time.  Let us spend our lives on Earth bringing the light of Christ to the world.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday: The Passion of Christ

 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16

Today billions of Christians throughout the world are commemorating the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross.  Christ Jesus, the prophesied Messiah came not as a warrior of politics, but of love.  As an atheist, Good Friday was a hard concept for me to understand.  As I get older, I grow in its meaning.  At first, it seems like a bunch of superstition.  Christians worship a man who died on a Cross - big deal right?  What is so important about this?

Many Catholic parishes and other Protestant sects have processions reenacting the Stations of the Cross or "Via Crucis" as it is called in Latin.  These are the events that took place as Jesus carried the Cross eventually meeting death at Golgotha.  Christians and Popes have described this act as an "act of love."  How is carrying a cross in a humiliating and painful way eventually leading to death be an "act of love?"  Why would God use this to redeem the world?  Is God crazy or a masochist?  Any true atheist or skeptic curious about the Christian faith would ask these and more.  Death entered the world due to the sin of Adam and Eve (Romans 5:14).  It is via death that Christ brings life and grace to all (Hebrews 2:5-18).

Love hurts most of the time.  How many times have we had a lover who we tried to impress with flowers, chocolates and what not only for it to go sour later on?  Love is so good but can be bad, we often think.  Love hurts.  We give so much to a person and that person may not give as much back if anything at all.  John 3:16 is often quoted and is perhaps the most quoted passage from the Bible.  It says to the effect that God loves the world so much that He sent His only son.

God sent His son Jesus for all of humanity.  This is the greatest love of all (John 15:13).  This act makes no sense to those who are limited in reasoning.
For Christ to lay down His life for all of us shows the extent to which God will go through in order to show that He seriously loves each one of us.  Jesus is willing to go through hell, so to speak, in order to show that we are loved and never abandoned.  This spoke volumes to me as an atheist.  Other gods or conceptions of gods that man has used to define the one reality of God present these beings as egoistic, limited and unconcerned of the affairs of men.  In many instances, people were sacrificed for these conceptual gods. With Jesus, He becomes the sacrifice for man recalling how Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac his son after getting the command from God (Genesis 22).  Even philosopher Kierkegaard regarded this command and act as a "suspension of the ethical." 

However, Abraham was about to do this act out of love and faith.  Naturally, God was not going to allow him to kill his only son.  He was merely testing him to show that Abraham was not tainted by the rituals of paganism in his time which called for human sacrifices.  This story is also a foreshadowing of God sending His own Son to be the sacrificial lamb.  It is a preparation for love personified in the person of Christ giving His life for all of us.

We know Jesus was betrayed by Judas with a kiss.  A kiss is most likely the universal symbol for love and affection.  We use this physical symbol to show love to our parents, other relatives, friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, husbands/wives, and even people we have just met.  It is a simple gesture that is quick and sends the message that we are close to the recipient.  The kiss of Judas has an interesting context here.  It is a kiss of betrayal and hypocrisy.  Here we see two kinds of love presented: genuine agape love, and selfish love.  Jesus is giving His life for all, including Judas.  Judas is giving "love" via a kiss but only for his own ulterior motives which are 30 pieces of silver.

In today's world, we see so many broken relationships.  Love is given conditions in order to function in society.  Many of us look for looks instead of hearts.  Our partners have to look a certain way, act a certain way, or have a certain amount in order for us to consider even meeting or dating.  It has gone even more bizarre with the promotion of same-sex unions which completely negates the psychological and biological function of courtship in the natural world.  Love is being twisted to serve the self instead of others.  This is what I call the "Judas effect."  Today we often love in order to get something in return.  Love becomes a stock bond which we gamble to see what we gain and what losses we cut.  Marriages dissolve because of financial reasons or changes in personal desires - again selfish motives.  Calls for "marriage equality" are pushed down our throats in the name of love that cannot give of itself via reproduction and that promotes unions only of the sake of seeking rights to a partner's assets - again selfish motives.  It is no wonder why so many couples break up and so many marriages go down the path of divorce and why love and marriage have become a circus for the egotistical.  Our society has lost the love Christ preached and presented today on Good Friday over 2,000 years ago.

Christ gave Himself for us without condition.  He died for each one of us as we are.  Jesus did not care how we looked, what we had, who we associate with or who we are deep down.  Jesus died on the Cross because we are part of God's family and He loves us.  He is our brother and God the Father is our Father.  Good Friday should remind us of this.  We should not go to Good Friday liturgies and just go through the routines of the rites without adsorbing their meanings.  The events of today have so much wisdom for us to grow as human beings, not only in grace and spiritually, but also psychologically and socially with one another.

Jesus is the "just man" foreshadowed by Plato in his Republic (Book 2, 361e, 362a), "...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."  He is the model for all humanity to follow.  We all want love and want to love.  Jesus is the only one who can show us how through His Word and example.  God is indeed love (1 John 4:8).  He is merciful.  Recently, the world lost Dr. Stephen Hawking, a man who claimed to be an atheist and called the after life a superstition. After his death, some condemned him to hell.  We cannot know who goes to hell.  We cannot know what goes on in the mind and heart of an atheist as he or she dies.  Jesus on the Cross forgave the "Good Theif" or St. Dismus who asked for forgiveness. Jesus told him that he would joinHim in paradise.  Similarly, those who mocked Christ as He hung on the Cross; those who rejected Him are representative of those who reject God and mock Him.  Christ still loves them. Christ still loves atheists and agnostics.  He said to forgive them for they know not what they do. Jesus pleads for them to His Father.  Not even the atheist is barred from salvation.  Today, Good Friday should remind us of this and how God loves us all so much.   

God became man born of a humble Virgin and suffered and died for us.  He paid the piper, so to speak on our behalf.  He nailed our sins, problems, stresses to the cross and took it on His person.  Let us take this day to reflect deeply.on this act of love.  No other religion has this.  Some atheists love to promote the refuted Christ myth hypothesis.  They claim that Christ never existed and is an amalgamation of other deities from mythology. This is far from the truth and has been refuted by the consensus of scholars. Even atheist scholars accept the fact that Jesus was a historical figure. Jesus is unique. We can tell He was no myth.  Other religions have gods who use man as their footstool.  They do not care for man.  In Christ, we see a God who loves His people. A God who treats His people as if they were His God.  What Superior Being becomes man, suffers at the hands of man for man?  This idea is foreign to mythology.  This is why Christ truly existed.  The passion we read about is not a made up story. This really happened andtranscends time and place.  Let us reflect on God's suffering in Jesus Christ.  Let us vow to change by nailing our sins to the Cross, dying with Christ and wait for Him to cause our bodies to rise.         

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Holy Thursday: Reason and Love at Work

"When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 'You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.'" 
-John 13:12-16

Today is Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday. We recall how Christ celebrated the Seder meal or Passover which commemorates the events in Egypt during the Exodus (Exodus 12). During this ritual, Christ added something.  He washed the feet of his Disciples.  Here we have the Son of God and the second person of the Blessed Trinity washing the feet of creatures He created who constantly offend Him with sin. This shows the humility of God that He would serve the servant giving us all an example to follow (Philippians 2, Matthew 11:29). Holy Thursday should remind us of serving others and being merciful (1 Peter 4:10, Galatians 5:13-14).  Jesus even commanded that we serve others and wash one another's feet (John 13:12-14). Notice that He did not place any conditions on this service. I mention this in light of recent laws being passed that some believe discriminate against the LGBT community. These laws can be interpreted as allowing religious businesses to pick and choose who they want to serve, according to opponents. During Holy Thursday morning prayer, I reflected on this news and today's Liturgy as I studied the rubrics. I thought to myself: "yes catering to LGBT events does in a way show support for it." The Church does teach in the catechism that we can be an accessory to the sins of others.  The Catechism states:

Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
- by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
- by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
- by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
- by protecting evil-doers.
CCC 1868

An older text from 1888 goes into more detail:

"Nine Ways of being Accessory to another's Sin.
By Counsel
By Command
By Consent
By Provocation
By Praise or Flattery
By Concealment
By partaking
By Silence
By defense of the Ill Done
A MANUAL OF PRAYERS for the use of the Catholic Laity (copyright 1888)

After reading this, we can see why Catholics and Protestants are concerned when they are approached by homosexual persons seeking services for their same-sex weddings. How do we get around this? Well, I thought of the lesser of two evils model which posits that we choose what is least damaging. Only God is our judge and can read our hearts (James 4:12, Psalm 75:7, Psalm 139:23-24). If we are business owners and are asked to cater to a same-sex event, then we can pray to God making it clear that we are not endorsing the event, but are serving the "least of our brethren," so to speak (Matthew 25:40). This is one way of getting out of the dilemma of being an accessory to the sin of another. We can also admonish the sinner with mercy and compassion (2 Thessalonians 3:15). There are ways of telling people that what they are doing offends God in a way that does not come across as judgmental or demanding. I believe this ties into today's Holy Thursday ritual.

We are called by Christ to "wash another's feet."  Remember, He never specified whom to wash, but said, just go do it!  God is the only one who can change minds and hearts (Ezekiel 36:26). By refusing service to members of the LGBT, we are just creating hostility and putting up a wall that might prevent these people from reflecting on their sins and making an effort to live according to God's will. The parable of the Good Samaritan comes to mind in this situation as well (Luke 10:25-37). In this story, Jesus is questioned by a lawyer who asks Jesus, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life," Jesus replies asking this man, "What is written in the law?"  The lawyer begins to cite from Leviticus 19:9-18 & Deuteronomy 6:5 which states to love God and neighbor. Jesus tells him that he is correct, but the lawyer then asks Jesus, "and who is my neighbor" to which Jesus replies with the parable,

"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion,  and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.'"  

Jesus then asks the lawyer who does he think was the one who was neighborly to the victim of robbery to which the lawyer replies, “The one who showed mercy on him.” After hearing this answer, Jesus tells the lawyer to do the same.

Here in this parable, we see a man who is a victim of a robbery. A priest or "man of God" saw the man there laying beaten and humiliated and moved to the other side, completely avoiding this victim of a crime. Next, a Levite passed by and did the same. A Levite had a special religious status in the tribe of Levi.  Despite this role, the Levite passed by the injured victim of robbery.  However, a Samaritan comes by and stops to help him and even pays an innkeeper and requests that this innkeeper cares for him and even offers to pay any additional expenses the victim of the robbery may incur. The Samaritans were a rival group of the Jews at the time of Jesus. They were not expected to help their counterparts.  This is why this Samaritan is described as the "Good Samaritan."  Jesus used a Samaritan to tell His story to show that we must break past our differences and focus on the person by serving him or her.

In the washing of the feet, we see this transcendence of two "rival" entities: God (Jesus) representing holiness and perfection and the disciples representing sin and imperfection. The uniting force is love. As Catholics, we are called to love others, even those who hate us and want to oppress us (Matthew 5:44). We are not called to be enemies of the LGBT, Atheists, Muslims or anyone else who thinks and acts differently. In fact, we are called to serve them (Galatians 5:13).

Lastly, during this night Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist. He did not abolish the old ritual of the Passover but fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17). The Holy Eucharist just like the Passover meal provided protection from death (Exodus 12:23). This is because we are given the bread of life who is Jesus, that allows us to live forever (John 6:35).  A few years ago, renowned Agnostic astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson made some comments conflating the Holy Eucharist and Scientology as "crazy." He said in the interview,

"So, you have people who are certain that a man in a robe transforms a cracker into the literal body of Jesus saying that what goes on in Scientology is crazy?" -

Here we see his ignorance regarding Catholicism. First, I know of no one in the Catholic Church who calls Scientology or any other differing view "crazy."  The Catechism has this to say regarding other faiths, not in union with the Church:

"818 "However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers . . . . All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church."272 
819 "Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth"273 are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: "the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements."274 Christ's Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him,275 and are in themselves calls to "Catholic unity."276) 

Moreover, as a former atheist, I can state with sincerity that the idea of the Holy Eucharist is "crazy." I say this with all respect, of course.  Let me explain why:  God is known to do things foolishly, illogically and completely contrary to how we think things should be done and this foolishness of God, in reality, is wiser than anything man can formulate (1 Corinthians 1:25). The Holy Eucharist is one of these "foolish" ideas which really is wise and shows God's genius. During the Last Supper, Our Lord took bread and wine, blessed it and distributed among the Apostles saying that they were His Body and Blood.  He instructed them to do this in His memory.  (Luke 22:7-20)  In other words, this meal was not a one-time thing.  It has to continue.

Was Jesus joking around when He said that bread and wine were His Body and Blood?  
The answer is no.  In John 6:22-69 Jesus gave a long talk about the "Bread of Life."  He goes on to say that the bread Moses gave was not the "True Bread."  The people asked Him for this "Bread of Life" and He then makes the radical statement that HE is the "Bread of Life" and the "True Bread from Heaven." The people began to murmur among themselves because they knew Jesus was the son of Joseph, and not to mention that His words were a bit strange and in today's world would be seen as psychotic.

However, it gets "stranger..."  Jesus continues saying that one has to eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have eternal life.  This is when the people really had enough.  Many walked out on Him thinking He was a lunatic.  Jesus then turns to His disciples and asks them if they will leave as well. Peter replies saying that they can't go anywhere else because Jesus had the words of eternal life. Peter is always the first to speak up or to lead, this shows why the Pope is the first bishop among all bishops of the world - but that is another blog post .

Moreover, something interesting happens here in regards to how serious Jesus was about eating His flesh and drinking His blood.  Many of our separated brethren believe the Holy Eucharist is a symbol and not literally Christ's Body Blood Soul and Divinity.  However, when people started abandoning Jesus for saying that one has to eat His flesh and drink His blood, Jesus did not run in front of them and say "hey, wait a minute, I was joking." Instead, Jesus let them go.  This shows that He was very serious about His flesh and blood being actual things that someone has to consume.  In 1 Cor 10:16 St. Paul reminds the people that the bread and wine are the Lord's Body and Blood.

Why bread and wine?
In Genesis 14:18 we read about Melchizedek - priest of God and king of Salem- giving Abram bread and wine.  He then blesses Abram.  Jesus uses bread and wine to make the connection to the Old covenant and to show that He is the True Priest who offers the True Sacrifice - Himself.  Bread is a food that is delicious that can be served with literally every food on Earth.  It has a lot of carbohydrates which in turn gives a lot of energy to the body.  It is a food that is easy to make but does a lot to appease hunger and give nutrients.  Then there is wine.  It is used to party with.  It was even used as medicine and a disinfectant agent for wounds. Jesus as Bread and Wine does exactly that to our souls.  He appeases the hunger for God and nourishes the soul.  He brings our souls to jubilation by uniting with it when one receives Holy Communion.  He heals the soul from the harm sin has caused.

One may ask:  at Mass, the Bread and Wine still look, taste, smell, feel like Bread and Wine, so how can it be the Body and Blood of Christ?  Well, God knows us well.  God designed the human body and mind.  He knows that human beings would cringe at the sight of eating raw meat and drinking blood.  How many times have we ourselves have gotten disgusted at looking at our own wounds?  It is not easy seeing blood and flesh in a traumatic form.

A few years ago, there was a big buzz in social media regarding the "Zombie" in Miami.  A man who was high on "salt" - a drug - attacked a homeless man and literally ate his face. People were disgusted at the news and the reality of how a human can even succumb to this evil cannibalistic act.  That being said,  God would not give us human flesh and blood to eat and drink in the material sense. Rather, He would use matter that we are all familiar with and that we enjoy: food and drink.

At consecration, the Bread and Wine do not turn into a piece of meat and human blood with DNA, platelets, red/white cells etc - unless a Eucharistic Miracle has taken place which sometimes does occur.  The outside or the accidents of the bread and wine remain the same, but what it is, or the essence changes.  Think of it this way:  We see leaves on trees.  During spring and summer, they are green.  However, during fall they begin to change colors.  They turn red, orange, yellow and brown. Now let's think:  which one is the REAL leaf?  At one point it was green, then red, then orange, then yellow and then brown.  The leaf changed colors, so is it the same leaf when it was green?  The answer is yes.  The outside or accidents of the leaf changed, but the essence, or what it is remains the same.  The same with the Bread and Wine at Mass but in an opposite manner.  The outside remains the same (bread/wine) but the inside or what it is, changes and becomes the Body Blood Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Similarly, we ourselves go through many changes.  Our bodies grow and change as we age; however, our temperament remains the same.

Silly Neil, what's the deal?

So we can see how "God's foolishness/stupidity" and "craziness" is wisdom for us. God uses bread and wine because He understands us. He understands that no one is going to literally eat human flesh and blood.  As God, He can transform bread and wine into the literal body, blood, soul, and divinity without making it into a disgusting cannibalistic rite.  This is because with God nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37). Moreover, Neil Degrasse Tyson is the one who is crazy for thinking that tachyon particles or hypothetical particles believed to travel faster than the speed of light (186,282 miles per second) exist and can cause Cherenkov radiation, which is another hypothetical scenario where light creates a "sonic boom" effect if something forces it to go faster than it normally does, breaking its barrier.

So in closing, we must serve one another despite our differences, even if they hate us. Our Lord gave us Himself in the Blessed Sacrament and we should make every effort to visit Him and communicate (receive Communion) with Him while in the state of grace; and yes Tyson, the Holy Eucharist is "crazy" but this craziness reflects the wisdom of God which trumps the nonsense we human beings posit via materialistic philosophies and scientific ideas based on overactive imaginations.

Jesus is truly present in the Holy Eucharist.  He gives us Himself completely so that we can have the grace necessary to love Him and one another.  Holy Thursday is not just about the Eucharist or the priesthood.  It is also about service to others.  Loving others is a mandate for every Catholic.  We are a community on this planet; brothers and sisters who have our origin in Adam and Eve.  Therefore, we must care for one another.  I know this is hard, but no one said it would be easy.  Nothing in Christianity is easy.  This is one of the reasons why it is worthwhile.  It challenges us to be superhuman; to be the ubermensch or "Superman" as philosopher  Friedrich Nietzsche coined it.  This can only be accomplished with the grace of God.  Reason and love come to work in the person of Jesus Christ. 

On this Holy Thursday, let us focus on Christ and service to one another.  Let us vow to do better with how we reflect Christ to the world.   

Pope 'Says' Hell Does Not Exist

The media is reporting that Pope Francis said that there is no hell and that sinful souls just "disappear." The pope is alleged to have stated this to atheist journalist Eugenio Scalfari, a 93-year-old atheist communist who founded La Repubblica newspaper, a leftist paper.

According to Scalfari, when he asked the pope about "bad souls," the pope replied stating that bad souls that do not repent simply disappear and that there is no hell. Scalfari is an atheist Communist Italian.

"They are not punished, those who repent obtain the forgiveness of God and enter the rank of souls who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot therefore be forgiven disappear.
There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls." - Scalfari "quoting" the pope

Immediately "Rorate Caeli" and other right-wing gossip blogs began to attack the pope as a heretic, senile accusing him of destroying the catechism. They did not even bother to verify the story or what the pope actually stated. These sites are so bent on slandering and attacking the Holy Father that they set aside good journalism in favor of propaganda and fake news.

According to the Vatican spokesman Fr. Thomas Rosica, this "interview" was not even an interview. The atheist journalist requested a private meeting with him and clearly took advantage of the situation. He has a tendency of not taking notes and of simply quoting people from memory. Remember, he is in his 90's.  This speaks volumes of his memory and cognitive abilities.

The Vatican issued a statement saying that Scalfari's article "is a product of his own reconstruction in which the actual words pronounced by the pope are not cited. No quotes of the aforementioned article should, therefore, be considered as a faithful transcription of the Holy Father's words."

Statement of the Press Office:
The Holy Father recently received the founder of the newspaper La Repubblica in a private meeting on the occasion of Easter, without, however, granting him an interview. What is reported by the author in today’s article is the fruit of his reconstruction, in which the precise words uttered by the Pope are not cited. No quotations in the aforementioned article, then, should be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father.

This is not the first time that Scalfari misquoted Pope Francis. He did this in 2013 and removed an interview he conducted and then reposted it only to remove it again. From experience as a former atheist, atheists cannot be trusted when giving accounts of religion or religious persons. They distort things and post alternative facts in order to make a religion or religious leader look bad.

It is unfortunate that so-called conservative Catholics were quick to attack Pope Francis and believe the story. Pope Francis would never deny the existence of hell. This is a doctrine of the Church that is taught in Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium.  It can never change or dismissed. The Catechism says:

IV. Hell 
1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."610 Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.611 To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."

1034 Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.612 Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,"613 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"614

1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."615 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."616

Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth."617

1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;618 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance":619

Father, accept this offering
from your whole family.
Grant us your peace in this life,
save us from final damnation,
and count us among those you have chosen.620

610 1 ⇒ Jn 3:14-15.

611 Cf. ⇒ Mt 25:31-46.

612 Cf. ⇒ Mt 5:22, ⇒ 29; ⇒ 10:28; ⇒ 13:42, ⇒ 50; ⇒ Mk 9:43-48.

613 ⇒ Mt 13:41-42.

614 ⇒ Mt 25:41.

615 Cf. DS 76; 409; 411; 801; 858; 1002; 1351; 1575; Paul VI, CPG # 12.

616 ⇒ Mt 7:13-14.

617 LG 48 # 3; ⇒ Mt 22:13; cf. ⇒ Heb 9:27; ⇒ Mt 25:13, ⇒ 26, ⇒ 30, ⇒ 31 ⇒ 46.

618 Cf. Council of Orange II (529): DS 397; Council of Trent

619 ⇒ 2 Pet 3:9.

620 Roman Missal, EP I (Roman Canon) 88.

Moreover, Pope Francis has mentioned hell and Satan more than recent popes have. Here are the many times he has mentioned hell in his writings and speeches:

This story is a whole lot about nothing. Again, enemies of pope Francis within the Church have capitalized on this and have slandered the pope.  They in their delusion now see a confirmation of their accusations of the pope; namely, that he is a "heretic" or a senile socialist looking to destroy the Catholic faith. Here is some reaction to the story on Twitter:

Let us pray for our Holy Father who is always under attack.  It is sad that many of these attackers are from his own flock.  The pope is no heretic. He is a shepherd to reaches out to the sheep, even those outside of the Church.  As a public figure, he will always be a target of slander and falsehoods.  Do not believe anything you read or hear.  Wait until the Vatican issues a statement. 


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Spy Wednesday: Seeking the World's Coins

Today is Spy Wednesday. Those religious people who live double lives are like Judas who betrayed Christ. As you may know, Spy Wednesday is the day when Judas Iscariot conspired against his Lord and Master, Jesus Christ (Mark 14:10-11). Today, there are many ways we can conspire against Jesus.

Going to Church and then sinning as if the calls for repentance of the confiteor means nothing is one way. Being "religious," yet not being "religious" is hypocrisy. This kind of practice of religion is worthless (James 1:26). If we think that going to Mass all dressed up or walking around with a Rosary or Bible and not applying their essence in our lives pleases God, then we are fooling ourselves (Matthew 6:1).

This type of worship is in vain and offends God (Matthew 15:7-9).  The reason why we go to Mass, pray daily, receive the Sacraments, attend retreats and other religious events is to help us become more Christ-like. If we are to live in Christ who is the truth, then we too must be truthful (John 14:6, CCC para. 2468). Duplicity in living the Christian life serves no purpose to the worship of God and our sanctification. I call this an implicit form of atheism which mocks God.  The reason being is because we sometimes think we believe in God and are religious, but deep down we just do it as an obligation or to get attention; this rejects God (Titus 1:16). Sacred Scripture clearly states that those who reject God or lack belief in Him are fools (Psalms 53:1, Psalms 14:1).

Presenting an external devotion to God while not externalizing it is what Judas Iscariot did.  He was called by the Lord, traveled with Him and even was at the Last Supper with Him, yet He did not internalize who this Lord was (John 1:10). We must not be like Judas who left early to collect his money. Either we are with God or with the world, there is no middle ground (Matthew 6:24). We only fool ourselves into thinking we are religious when in fact we are not deep down. God is never fooled or mocked (Galatians 6:7).  As we get closer to the Paschal Triduum, let us focus on ourselves and where we stand before God.  Are we truly transforming within, or has Catholicism become a ritual run by unconsciousness and conditioning?  We must ask ourselves these questions.

Our faith must be genuine. As many of you know, the first Mass was at the Last Supper. Judas left the supper early. He was the first one to leave Mass early.  Why did he leave?  He left to collect his money and set up the betrayal he was conceiving.  Judas took the bread, the Body of Christ and left (John 13:30). While there may be valid reasons we can leave Mass, we must always try to avoid doing so. We must not be a spy for Satan. We must not be a fake Catholic like Judas who followed Jesus as an opportunist.  We must not sell out Christ for the things of this world. 

Let us meditate on where we stand before God.  Are we like Judas seeking silver coins?

Friday, March 23, 2018

Richard Dawkins Concerned Over Decline of European Christianity

Alleged atheist, Dr. Richard Dawkins who is known for his antics and bigotry against Muslims and Christians is now lamenting the decline of Christianity in Europe.

For the past decade, some have associated the lack of religious participation as a decline in Christianity and increase of immigrants from Islamic nations.

Some atheists have attributed this to atheist propaganda being spread online and in universities and Europes open borders policies. However, this is not so. What is happening is that people are not attending religious services. If there are no people going to religious services, then there is no attendance. This does not mean that there are not people joining religious faiths in Europe. In fact, Spain is seeing an increase in seminarians.

Dawkins seems to be showing some concern at this decline. He tweeted on Wednesday:

Here we see that Dawkins apparently hates Muslims more than he does Christians. He describes Christianity as a "benign" religion. Dawkins has stated before that he has not seen Christians blow themselves up or do anything similar to that of Islamist terrorists. He is now cautioning atheists against celebrating the news from a recent report which claims there is a sharp decline in Christianity in several European nations.

I believe Dawkins' concern is more about the decline of Caucasians in Europe. A similar fear is taking hold among White conservatives in the United States of America.  Many of them are afraid that America is now becoming "brown" due to an increase in Hispanics.  In Europe, there are some who believe that the continent is a "White" land and should stay that way.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Is Stephen Hawking in Hell?

It has been almost a full week since the world has lost one of the greatest scientific minds in post-modern history. Many people have felt the loss, including myself. Stephen Hawking was an idol to me during my atheist days and into now as a Catholic. While we did not agree on everything, I still appreciated his person and contribution to physics.

Moreover, Hawking was a big inspiration because of his physical condition. He developed ALS at an early age and given just two years to live. Obviously, he defied that short expectation of life. In my opinion, God kept him here to help discover new things about His creation. His life in a wheelchair using a robotic voice to communicate showed to me that life is special. Human life is unique and can overcome many things. I remember taking a philosophy course dealing with disabilities and bringing him up during discussions about the worth of the disabled. As a fan, I always put him on a pedestal in the class by reminding fellow students that this man was literally frozen in his body and kept working and making discoveries! Human beings are prejudicial creatures. We love to judge others and prejudge. Usually, when we see someone in a wheelchair or on crutches, we assume the person is sick, weak; some of us may see the person as useless or not even a person. Hawking proved everyone wrong. The disabled do matter. They are persons with dignity capable of many things.
Image Protestants have posted on social media

After Hawkins' passing, many people expressed their condolences and sadness online and offline. The news came as a shock. I remember watching Stephen Hawking being interviewed by Neil Degrasse Tyson on Star Talk the television version. However, along with the expressions of humanity, there were expressions of inhumanity. There were some who were quick to condemn Stephen Hawking to hell. These people claim to be "Christian." This is what makes me feel even more sick to my stomach. Here are some tweets I found showing this inhumanity:

You can see more nasty tweets here:

Recently on Google Plus, someone messaged me after I commented on Hawkings' death here: The person is either a fundamentalist Protestant or an atheist pretending to be a Protestant fundamentalist.  In any event, this person was intent on condemning Stephen Hawking to hell. I responded by stating that no one knows the state of mind or heart of the late cosmologist. This person insisted that the Bible condemned him and even cited his words where he stated that he was an atheist and called heaven or the afterlife "superstition." Eventually, this person blocked me after I corrected his or her misconceptions. Here is the post and screenshots of our exchange:

"We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average...

"We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very spe... - Worldwide Wyatt - Google+

Jesus is the one who saves souls, not us (John 14:6). We cannot judge souls, only God can. In 2013, Pope Francis made comments regarding atheists going to heaven. Immediately, the media jumped to conclusions and atheists themselves were left scratching their heads in confusion, so to speak. What the pope was trying to say is that atheists who are good may achieve salvation for being good.  The Church teaches that those who do not receive the Gospel or never heard of it are not shunned from salvation.  In paragraph 839 the Catechism says: "Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the Pope of God in various ways."  It continues with several paragraphs explaining. You can read my posts on the pope's comments here:

The Holy Father was obviously referring to God's mercy when referring to atheists and even gays. These are two groups of humans who have been targeted by Christians and others for centuries with claims of damnation. Atheists today even complain to me about how pastors have condemned them to hell. Family members have also joined in the spiritual abuse, as I call it. While rejecting God is a mortal sin, this does not necessarily mean that an atheist will go to hell.  You may be wondering what I am talking about. Let me explain. 

One can be atheist for his or her whole life and can be a good person. When death comes, if this atheist asks God for forgiveness, mercy and opens his or her mind and heart to believe in God, he or she may be saved. This is possible even if this atheist was never baptized or never attended any religious institution. We call this a Baptism of Desire. The Catechism states:

1260 "'Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.'63 Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity." 

So an atheist who is good and at death asks God for mercy may, in fact, be saved and end up in purgatory or possibly even heaven.  This is why I stressed to the person on Google Plus that we cannot condemn Dr. Stephan Hawking to hell simply because he claimed to be an atheist or make anti-God or anti-religion comments. He may have believed those statements or he may have just said them because maybe he was angry over his disability. Who knows!  The fact of the matter is that we do not know what was in his heart or mind. His past statements are irrelevant. What matters is what was in his mind and heart as he breathes his last breaths. This is why not even the Catholic Church has made any pronouncement about who is in hell. We just do not know. While the Catholic Church is the normative means to reach salvation in Jesus through the adherence to her teachings and Sacraments, this does not mean others outside of the Church are automatically condemned.  You will not even find the Catholic Church claiming that Hitler is in hell. This is not the Church's job.

God is merciful. Pope Francis has been reminding the world of this ever since he took the Chair of St. Peter. An atheist is not shunned from God's mercy. We see the case of St. Dismas or the "Good Theif" in Luke 23:32-43. This man was far from God and was nailed to the Cross alongside Jesus.  He asked Jesus for forgiveness and Christ promised him that he would be with Christ in paradise. This man probably never went to Synagog or prayed, yet in his last moments, he was saved by Christ. An atheist has the same opportunity, even at death.

Some news outlets have reported that a Protestant website author said that Hawkins was conceived of Satan in order to counter the late Reverend Billy Graham.  This individual "figured" this out by the years both were born. This, of course, is hogwash and shows that this Protestant may have some psychological problems.  Furthermore, my fellow Catholics are not so innocent either I am afraid to state.  Some private Catholic Facebook groups and organizations which are not affiliated with the Catholic Church have claimed that Hawkins told the pope that "he believes" using his robotic computer voice.  The website Snopes called the story false.  Again, we simply do not know what happened between Hawking and God!  I hope and pray for the best and try to think positive.  That is my job as a Catholic and Catholic Evangelist.   We must pray for those Christians who live their lives condemning others.  They cannot see reality because of the log in their eyes.  

Is Stephen Hawking in hell for being an agnostic or atheist? There will be fanatics who will say yes like the person who posted this below on Google Plus or those who tweeted the tweets above, not to leave out the many other sites and Facebook posts out there. However,  God is merciful. We cannot see what was in Hawkins' heart. Only God can see.  Jesus on the cross said, "Forgive them for they know not what they do." These words are for those who attack God, reject God, and kill God on the cross.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Atheist Amnesia: Michael Shermer Sexually Abused Women Too!

In the age of the "MeToo" movement, many men have been accused of sexual harassment. These accusations turned out to be true after many of the accused admitted to the crimes. No social institution or group is free of this evil. Atheists who often claim that they are more moral than Christians also have a problem with sexual harassment among their ranks. Last month, atheist physicist Dr. Lawrence Krauss was accused by several women (see:  However, he was not punished for his actions. His place of employment did not even suspend him. While some have cancelled scheduled appearances by him, Krauss for the most part has remained shielded.  The atheist community has also been mute.  Perhaps attacking him will hurt the so-called "New Atheism" movement?  Atheists look at Krauss, Dawkins and others as leaders; in fact, I dare to say, in a "religious" way. 

The disgraced physicist is not the only one atheists have resorted to amnesia with. Dr.  Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine and author of Heavens on Earth and other books has also been accused of sexual harassment and assault. Shermer claims to be a former fundamentalist Christian who saw the "light of reason." He writes a lot on psychology and neuroscience, but has no degree in the fields. His doctorate is on the history of science which he earned in 1991 at Claremont Graduate University.  Many atheists rely on his writings to make their arguments, especially on theists allegedly placing agency to things in nature which are attributed to God.  They rely Shermer for their conclusions without being honest that he is not an expert in the field. 

In light of this, many atheists hold Shermer in high esteem and are most likely shielding him.  In 2014, blogger PZ Myers who has taken on Shermer in discussions posted some emails where a women accused Shermer of sexual misconduct.  The blog post was picked up by BuzzFeed. A woman named Alison Smith accused Shermer of raping her. Shermer responded to the accusations by admitting that there was a sexual relationship, but that it was consentual (see:  Many more women have come forward accusing the atheist publisher of sexual harassment and sexual assault.  Despite the accusations, Shermer still has a job and a talk by him at City College (one of my alma maters) is still on. This is unfortunate and a shame for City College. The university system should not be a platform for those who abuse women or anyone. It is a slap to the face of victims.  Chemistry Chair Raeanne Napoleon even alerted the college's staff about the allegations in an email hoping to get a reaction that would shut down Shermer's event.  She did the right thing. Unfortunately, the college took another direction and allowed Shermer to speak. Many faculty and students were not even aware of the allegations by several women against Dr. Shermer.

Atheism has a big problem here, among others. The movement is run by affluent white males who have made a habit of silencing their female compatriots and have taken advantage of them professionally and sexually. Atheists love to bring up the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church from 2004, but fail to acknowledge their own problem with sexual abuse within their ranks.  While nothing can excuse abuse from Catholic clergy, the statistics pale in comparison with other groups.  Abuse from priests is less than 2%. Moreover, many of the sex abuse cases against priests are from over 40 years ago.  Many of the accused priests are dead or defrocked. The Catholic Church has done everything possible to prosecute the offenders and has taken action to prevent any new cases. What have atheist leaders done? Nothing at all!  They ignore women and protect abusers. This is why Mark Oppenheimer of BuzzFeed wrote an excellent piece on misogyny and how it will destroy the atheist movement. Atheists simply are indifferent to women and people of color.

Shermer, Krauss et al are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. I expect many more renown atheists to fall from grace as women pick up energy from the "MeToo" movement and out these perverts. Time will tell how successful it will be, but something has to be done to protect women and others. Shermer, Krauss etc must be punished for their abuse of women in one way or another. They cannot be shielded nor given a slap on the wrist. Similarly, atheists are mute against gay atheist activist David Thorstad who founded NAMBLA and is pushing for the legalization of man-boy relationships. This is just disgusting and the silence from atheists is deplorable.     



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