Sunday, March 25, 2012

On Speaking

I had a thought the other day (and by other day I mean other week, back when it was cold) that I have been meaning to share.

I have been participating in the local 40 Days for Life campaign, with an earlier-morning shift before my classes and work start. Being ostensibly winter in Iowa, there were a few days in which it was in fact a bit chilly. I may be a native (more or less), but that doesn't mean I don't bundle up when there's snow on the ground!

It's amazing how much less
scared of you people are when
you are carrying a child...

So there I was, praying my rosary as I walked back and forth in the "L" that comprises the public sidewalks in front of our local Planned Parenthood, with my scarf and the collar of my middle layer up to keep my neck and face warm. It was actually rather pleasant, as I am half-German and therefore exothermic to a high degree. But the thing was, I couldn't see anything.

As you will have no doubt noticed from my profile picture, I am indeed a four-eyes. As those of less-than-stellar ocular capacity can attest to, condensation is the enemy of a good time when one is wearing glasses. One stray moisture-laden breath, and your cold glasses also just became 95% opaque. Fantastic.

The funny thing is, that doesn't happen when you're not trapping your breath close to your face. My glasses were only fogged over when I was speaking down, worried about warmth. When I raised my head, my glasses cleared, and I could see.

Our own voice, muttering to ourselves, clouds our sight, even if we're saying the right things.

The Word of God, spoken in charity to the world and seeing the people around you is sight.

Muttering to ourselves just builds up our sense of worth. I'm just so right, why can't they see it? Well, maybe they'd see it if it wasn't about you being right, but rather it was about you making the truth plain and manifest to their reasons.

Or maybe the truth they need to see is someone who is joyful about their vigil. Someone who is in awe at the beautiful day, grateful for his freedom and his life, smiling and genuinely joyful in greeting to everyone he passes, whether they smile or frown, wave or shake their head, acknowledge him or avoid eye contact.

Mine is the joyful endurance. Mine is the calm assurance. Mine is the peaceful certainty. Mine is contentment in Him who wins all victories for His beloved.

All it took was for me to stop muttering to myself, and to raise my head in prayer.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Second Luminous Mystery

He Who revealed Himself at the wedding feast of Cana
The Wedding of Cana

John 2:1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.

When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." (And) Jesus said to her, "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come."

His mother said to the servers, "Do whatever he tells you."

Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, "Fill the jars with water." So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, "Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter." So they took it.

And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now."

Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.

Typical of John, there are many different things going on here, such as the way that to the Greeks (this gospel was written in Greek), water connotes humanity, while wine connotes divinity. There is also of course the blessing of marriages here by the fact that not only is Christ present, but He is in a sense "the life of the party," and of course this passage pretty much trashes any claim that drinking is un-Christian. How much bigger of an endorsement for drinking (in the proper place and time - i.e. together in celebration) could there be?

What really strikes me when I read this, though, is the special focus given to Mary. This is the last time she speaks in the Gospel of John, but how profound is this? Mary is seemingly ignoring her Son (whom she knows to be the Messiah, the Son of God), and riding roughshod over His objection. What audacity in a mere mortal!

This should be a wake up call to the extreme importance that Mary holds in the life of Jesus. Recall that in Matthew 5:17f, He clearly states that He has come, "not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it," and assures us that "not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place." Recalling the 4th commandment and that Mary is indeed His mother, then by His own law the eternal 2nd Person of God honors His mother.

By giving Mary the gift of His Only-Begotten Son, the Father shares His Fatherhood with Mary, gives her a unique relationship - no one else will physically give birth to God, to literally be His mother. In leading her to initiate Christ's earthly ministry, God shows us the profound love He has for this woman. Let us be clear, God did not need Mary, Jesus could very easily have started His earthly mission on His own - He is GOD. However, Mary is allowed to exercise her motherhood, and gives us one of the simplest and yet most difficult instructions to living the Christian life:

Do whatsoever He tells you.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

War is not the answer!

Axiomatically, my dear Watson!

Time for my own version of shock and awe: I agree wholeheartedly and without reservation with the title of the post.

...though probably not for the reasons you are expecting.

Yep, I said it, war is awful. I hate it, it is an abomination, and is quite simply not the answer.

And that's the problem.

Bumper stickers are great for sloganeering, but not so much on actual thought, and this particularly popular bumper sticker suffers from that lack. Specifically, no rational person disagrees with this statement!

Whoa whoa whoa, Jeremiah, are you saying that the Pope was not rational in calling the first Crusade to defend Christians in the Holy Land? Are you saying that the U.S. had no rational minds involved in the prosecution of World War II and the defeat of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperialist Japan?

No. Because most of them didn't think war was the answer either.

Pretty much...

Okay, enough beating around the bush, let me talk plainly as bumper stickers cannot.

The problem: ∫Log(7)*7x dx1≤x≤2

The answer: 42

The solution:

  • ∫Log(7)*7x dx1≤x≤2
  • = 7x1≤x≤2
  • = 72 - 71
  • = 49-7
  • = 42

Yes, Jeremiah, we all know you're brilliant and an engineer and had to take Calculus I, II, & III, as well as Differential Equations, we're all awfully impressed.

Good, you should be.

But my point is if I was assigned that as homework and all I turned in was "42" (unless by some miracle the professor forgot to write "show all work" on the assignment... HA!), I would get precisely 0 on the assignment, because I gave an answer, but what was required was a solution.

The answer is like the goal, or the destination, while the solution is the map that tells us how to get there. Which is of course why only the foolish think that war is the answer, because only the foolish and evil desire war for its own sake.

What is not addressed in the bumper sticker philosophy is quite simply that sometimes that map leads through a dark valley, even the valley of the shadow of death, if you will. Because of our fallen nature, there are times when the only way to reach peace is by waging war against those who will not allow it. There are times when the only solution that does more good than harm involves incapacitating the belligerents, and someone has to do that pacifying.

This is why the Church in her wisdom gives us the Just War Doctrine. Catholic Answers has a writeup up that goes to some depth both in scripture and catechism to explain what the Church teaches, why, and how it is to be applied. It is a good read, and frank if brief regarding America's failures.

It's kind of a hard read when you realize how often our nation has violated those tenants, going to war without good reason, or persecuting the war in an evil manner. Even when our cause is just, there are still many many ways in which we betray justice in the war. If America really wants that place as the shining city on a hill, if she really wants to say that her way is better than Nazism, Socialism, Fascism, Communism, Imperialism, and Terrorism, then she better be acting like it. That our foes have been more vile in war does not justify our injustice.

The long and short of it is that whether it is an accurate quotation or not, war is indeed hell. It should be avoided at great cost, and all other legitimate options exhausted. However, peace is our aim, and not just peace which is the absence of violence, but peace with is the presence of justice. Sometimes the only way to achieve that peace is to remove the ability to wage war from those who would do evil.

War. Never the answer. Unfortunately, sometimes a part of the solution.