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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Where Does the Christian Find Home?

I can understand why, with each change in administration, many Americans become anxious and concerned.  While we place our trust in God, it is easy to worry and to feel apprehension.  God blesses his people.  However, as with Israel of old, when the people forget God, they often find themselves facing threats and enemies without divine blessing or protection. 

It is true that we are pilgrims or strangers in this world— we are people on a journey.  However, while our true home is heaven, I would take exception with those who would contend that nothing significant of our home can be found in this world.  Yes, as believers we look to Christ as our king and he tells Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world.  Otherwise, his followers would be coming to his defense.  But not long after that dark day leading to his passion and death, our resurrected Lord fully establishes his holy Church.  The mystery of the incarnation would remind us that the kingdom of God breaks into the world, first through the person of Christ and then through the Church he institutes and showers with his Holy Spirit.  A Catholic praying in a church or participating at Mass is truly home, no matter where in the world he might be.  Indeed, something of this “home” is shared by the “little church” of the family where we first learn our faith, our prayers and our values.  It is for this reason that the bishops stand up to defend the nature of marriage and the family along with the meaning of children as persons with rights (even in the womb).  While we are counted individually as citizens, it is the family that sanctifies and gives meaning to the American experiment.  We seek to be a country where basic human rights are safeguarded and where all might be free.  However, this liberty should never be derailed or corrupted as license or made absolute and exclusionary.  We are a people in community and as Americans believe that God has blessed us as a nation, not just for ourselves, but as a beacon of light for all other nations.  Patriots love their country.  This is a virtue. While nationalism would dismiss social evils and tolerate or enable sin, “my country right or wrong,” true patriotism would seek to maintain the core values of our God-given rights and values, “supporting our nation when she is right and correcting her when she is wrong.”  As with Berlin’s national hymn, we should never be ashamed to sing, “God bless America, my home sweet home. God bless America, my home sweet home.”

Ultimately, the old saying that “home is just where one hangs his hat” is untrue; rather, HOME is where one finds his HEART. We welcome the real but invisible presence of Christ in his sacrament and in our families, particular in the eyes of a beloved spouse and children. We pass on the faith to our little ones. We also hope to pass to them a country and world better than when we first entered ourselves.

Our First Parents & Biblical Longevity

QUESTION:

My question is quick but I am assuming not simple. In Genesis they mention a lot of people who were born after Adam. Some of these people live 600 plus years. My question is this, was time measured differently back then? I am trying to rationalize how those numbers came to be.

RESPONSE:

How are we to interpret the many years of life attributed to the patriarchs of Genesis?  This question must be discussed in context with the story of creation.  It so challenges credulity, that there are authorities who would reject the inquiry as silly.  Giving preference to evolution over the Genesis narratives, they would argue the entire business is fiction and contend that the numbers only serve symbolic purposes and certainly cannot be real.  We take confidence in God’s sustaining creative power and that we would need a time machine to go back and see for sure about the longevity.  The Church does teach that because of the primordial fall, death enters the world.  This means either that Adam and Eve were initially immortal or that death as we know it did not exist, no more than opening a door and moving from one room to the next where they would continue to see and to live with God forever.  Certain fundamentalists contend that the human lifespan grew shorter after the fall, especially following the deluge that destroyed the known world.  

We must be careful in our approach to such questions, neither to allow our belief in the supernatural to unreservedly color our assumptions or the current atheism to infect and poison confidence that ours is the God of the miraculous. Truth must be upheld and one form of truth complements another:  scientific, religious and philosophical.  Today, many of us are persuaded given the fossil evidence and DNA markers, that God brought forth humanity from lower pre-existing forms of life.  When a proper body was prepared, God infused an immortal soul and we had the first man.  A maxim popular in Catholic circles comes to mind:  “The Bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”  While the Scriptures contain myth and even Genesis has two distinct creation narratives, there are important truths that must not be lost.  God creates everything freely from nothing. 

The creation of the first man and woman signified a decisive moment when self-reflective creatures with souls were called forth to respond in kind to the God who has made them in his own image.  As the stewards of creation they could rightly love God back. God held out to them preternatural gifts left unclaimed and some of the Church fathers believed that the incarnation was imminent where the Lord would join himself to creation.  However, our first parents rebelled against God. 

I often ponder that decisive moment that we call the fall. I can imagine Adam with his wife Eve by his side staring at the sunrise of what should be a new day. Suddenly they have a “eureka moment” and are filled with awe from a divine presence and clear sense of their high calling— seeing with the eyes of the soul something beyond this world.  All they have to do is say YES, just as Mary did at her Annunciation and Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane. But it all seems too much to bear.  The devil directs them to turn away— a distraction that breaks the vision. As with the cli·ché, they “cannot see the forest for the trees” or at least for one forbidden tree. They might ponder the gifts of food, drink, pleasure and comfort— but wrongly claim the gifts while neglecting the giver.  It is easier to play the part of the beast.  Eyes that once gazed upward now turn to the ground.  Arms and hands raised in priestly praise to heaven now fall to the earth.  They and their descendants will trod as animals and totter when they seek to stand as men.  Any prospect for the incarnation passes to the future and to a promise made to rebellious children.  God tells them, “You have forgotten me but I have not forgotten you, and I promise, one day I will come searching for you so to bring you home.” Yes, God will enter the human family, not just to unite us to himself but to save us from ourselves and from the devil.        

Did Adam live to be 930 years old?  Did Methuselah live to be 969?  I cannot say.  It is unlikely.  However, God can do as he pleases.  I have an aunt who passed away at 124.  Unless I show the newspaper clippings from when she turned 117, most refuse to believe me and think I am pulling their leg.  It must be admitted that the Semitic people liked playing with numbers and had an elaborate numerology. Even the letters of their alphabet had numeral values.

Whatever the actual ages, the ancient peoples lived long enough to have children and to pass on their stories and their faith.  God would call a people and prepare them for a Messiah who would mend the rift between heaven and earth.  Our Lord Jesus would only live thirty some odd years in this world and his ministry would last a mere three years.  However, in that short time he would accomplish his mission— redeeming us from the devil, raising the dignity of human nature by his participation, and bringing healing and the forgiveness of sins by grace.  After his resurrection, Jesus descends to the dead and drags Adam and Eve by the hair into heaven. 

Sex: Sin or God’s Gift?

COMMENT:

I grew up in a small strict Protestant church. I was taught that sex was a sin— period; and if you did it you were going to hell— period. Our Lady told us that most people go to hell for sins of the flesh. So there you have it. The only other sin of the flesh that I can think of is gluttony. It could be forgiven if you were doing it to have children but you still had to repent. Every time they talked about the unforgivable sin, I knew what they were talking about.

RESPONSE:

You were taught wrong. It is true that there are a few sects that label all sex as sinful; this mentality afflicted Martin Luther who at one point argued that even consensual sex between married spouses was venial sin. Catholics struggled with something of this mentality in the heresy of Jansenism. Let me correct you. God is the author of human sexuality and all that God creates is good. Human sin can corrupt or misdirect a good, but God is never the direct author of evil. Sex between spouses, the marital act, is a holy thing that consummates the marriage and makes possible the creation of new human beings into which God infuses immortal souls. Lust is always a sin but the yearning and intimacy of holy passion makes possible marital fidelity and the family. It is because of the high place given this sacramental act or great mystery that the misuse of sex through abuse, contraception, homosexuality, pedophilia and adultery is so very wrong.

Sex is not the unforgivable sin. Indeed, condemnation of the marital act as sinful might be regarded as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit— just as serious as those who accused Jesus of healing and working miracles through the intervention of demons. It is this blasphemy that is unforgivable for one cannot both embrace and reject the powerful mercy of God. Of course, while there is mortal life, there is hope; at death our state before the Lord becomes fixed.

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