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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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Lift Up Your Hearts & Hands & Voices

Israel’s war against Amalek might have been a foreshadowing of the Church’s struggle against the world and the devil. The raised hands of Moses are often connected to the raised hands of the priest at the altar. The power that wins the battle is not Moses but that of God. However, Moses is seen as a conduit for divine power, showering his soldiers with heavenly strength and inspiring them with his presence on top of the hill. When Moses grew tired, Aaron and Hur supported his arms.

I am reminded about the story of an elderly priest who had to offer Mass from his wheelchair. A makeshift table was placed on the lower level before the altar. The priest had a debilitating muscular disease and his arms and hands were weak and useless. Two men from the community would hold up his arms for the orations and blessings. When he needed to hold the sacred elements, they would clasp their hands upon his so that he could raise up the bread and wine for consecration. Visitors one weekend were critical, noting that it was a shame that there was no healthy priest to say Mass properly. A large number of parishioners quickly objected to the criticism. One of them retorted, “What do you mean? We have our priest and he is empowered by Christ to give us the Eucharist and God’s blessing… what more could we want?”

The faith of the Jews and later of Christians is a mediated faith. We lift our hands and voices to the Lord. God uses weak human vessels to show his power and to transmit his gifts. God sends his deliverers, prophets, apostles, bishops, priests and deacons. God is our ultimate guardian but he gives us human sentinels who keep watch over his flock.

Does Prayer Move God or Us?

The worldwide Catholic Church fulfills the command from the Gospel to pray unceasingly.  The Mass is offered, the Liturgy of the Hours is prayed and the Rosaries are said.  Unlike the dishonest judge, God cannot be manipulated or forced to comply with our wishes.  However, God wants us to pray and to petition him as a loving Father.  Persistent faith and prayer is an antidote to human fickleness.  We need to have the heart and mind of God— to want what he wants.

Constant prayer and a lived faith will transform us.  We become God’s children in truth.  Yes, God knows what we need even before we petition him; however, this posture of dependence is demanded by God for our own good.  A person may give drink to the thirsty but the receiver must hold up his glass to receive the life-giving water. It might seem that God is moved but we are the ones being moved.  God pours himself out; but we must be receptive to the divine presence and grace.

I remember my departed mother.  She was never happier than when her family needed her.  Even when we were selfish, she immediately responded with love and caring.  All good mothers are the same.  Our supplications may be endless, but so is God’s charity and patience.  We belong to him.  Everything is God’s gift to us.  He delights in hearing the voices of his children.

The Reach of the Prayers of the Faithful

God is the source of justice for those wronged by the world.  While our faith must be lived outside the church doors, do we really make our own the bidding prayers of the Mass?  What are the intentions that we bring to the Eucharist?  Do we really believe that God hears and answers prayers?  Some critics think that we are just talking to ourselves and making a wish-list that will never be realized.  Of course, the Lord is not a genie from a lamp.  His response to prayer, not wishes, is not to serve selfishness but charity, compassion, peace and truth.

If we belong to the Lord then we should witness in faith to his justice.  The world resists and does not want to change.  Jesus laments, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

If we want our petitions answered, do we respond to the cries of the poor?

Do we pray for courage so as to live out a heroic witness as signs of contradiction?

Do we ask for the grace to love and forgive as Jesus does, even those who hate and hurt us?

Do we pray for enemies, as well as for friends and loved ones?

Do we pray for the living and the dead?

Are our petitions devoid of selfishness?

Do we pray for the salvation of souls, vocations and the sanctity of life? 

Are we emissaries praying for the wounded world?

The Measure of Justice & Charity

Social justice is not an element of the Catholic faith that can be conveniently discarded. The outreach of our Lord insures that the proclamation of the Good News will always include caring about the needs and rights of others.  While the Church would not condemn hard work and profit, the person is always measured as having primary value or worth in all human transactions.  The more one has, the greater is the responsibility to those who have little or nothing.  Poverty is not reflective of the curse and divine justice.  Rather, in the Judeo-Christian mindset, those in poverty are an opportunity for those with some degree of wealth to witness a charity that pleases God.  Divine judgment targets those who close their eyes to the hurting and the poor.

Today, Asian sweatshops and local jobs that pay a non-livable wage are instances of exploitation.  It translates the message that some people matter more than others and that certain people have no importance at all.  We see this mentality in poor-paying jobs, angry rhetoric toward immigrants and migrant workers, and consciences numb to the dignity of life in euthanasia and abortion, especially in light of dollars and cents.  Once a price-tag is attached to human life… we begin to live a lie and forget that in the eyes of God all life has an incommensurate value.

Too often a greater attachment or importance is given to profits over the message of mercy from the prophets.  History is riddled with injustice.  The scales that weigh coins are fixed.  The poor are forced to make do with junk and the refuse of the wheat for their bread.  The world has not changed much.  Just look at the street people who search dumpsters for food.  Even those who claim to care about the poor are often motivated by a politics and giving that enslaves future generations in poverty and dependence.  The poor are easily manipulated and that is precisely where people with power want them.

The message from Scripture is frequently that of a reversal.  The wealthy will be brought down and the poor will be raised up.  “He raises up the lowly from the dust; from the dunghill he lifts up the poor to seat them with princes…”  I have spoken before about how this admonition from the Psalms is realized in Christ where we are all anointed into the royal household of God.  The reversal begins with a young handmaid called Mary who cries, “He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.”

Clarfication on Intercessory Prayer & Salvation

Praying to Mary
Intercession of Mary & the Saints
How is Praying to a Saint NOT Like Praying to God?

BUIMIRA:  Here is a crucial point which should be clearly understood. With respect to the older posts, if we have a good relation with Jesus, and pray ONLY to Christ, and not to any saint, angel, or even to Mary, then we can count ourselves still confidently saved! This is the point that you missed, or did not make it clear. You shouldn’t have missed it in your articles.

FATHER JOE:  No, this is not Catholic teaching. While all prayer is directed to almighty God, we do invoke Mary, the angels and the saints to assist us and to intercede before God. This is reflective of a “corporate” relationship we have with each other and God. Certain Protestant sects wrongly privatize or overly personalize faith. We are called to both a personal and communal relationship with the Lord. As for being saved, Catholics do not subscribe to the Protestant understanding of Blessed Assurance which flows from a rigorist Lutheran view of justification by faith. Such relies upon a notion of juridical imputation while Catholicism insists upon being born again as a new creation. While there is life, we can abide in the sure and certain hope of our salvation. The problem is that genuine faith can sour. We pray that we will faithful endure until the race is over. This is different from the presumption which you seem to espouse.

ATHEIST COMMANDMENT 10

“Leave the world a better place than you found it.”

big-bag-of-money-6497-largeThis is a nice platitude but that is about all it is. The truth is that we have very little control over the world. We can try to make a positive difference over our small piece of it, but even here things often do not go our way. Indeed, we might be in conflict with one another as to what makes the world better. Is it technology, more parks, electric cars or gas guzzlers, laws that promote “choice” over human life, legalizing sodomy, what? Those who promote justice for some often want it revoked for others. That was a facet of the religious liberty fight between the Church and the current government administration. Often we experience life as a mess and leave the world in a mess. Despite progress can we say that the world is a better place than in the past? There are still acts of terrorism and genocide. This year it was estimated that the one percent of the world population owns over 50% of the world’s wealth and resources. There is an old saying about this— the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

We live and we die. Many people just scrape along, try to find some happiness and deal with dreams realized and/or broken. Relationships give comfort and belonging but there is also betrayal and abandonment. We are a society of givers and takers and critics debate as to which it might be better to be.

Catholic Charities is the largest social service organization in the world just behind the U.S. government. Believers are often very generous to those in need. I heard one atheist share his deep regrets that they were frequently shamed by believers in how they respond to the needy and human suffering. Why is that? What is it about the so-called “pie-in-the-sky religion” that also focuses on earthly struggles and pain? Why is it that by comparison non-theistic forms of humanism often become oppressive and part of the problem?

ATHEIST COMMANDMENT 9

“There is no one right way to live.”

Eye-3372-largeAnd what is this supposed to mean? Would the atheist tolerate a radical Islam that covered a woman’s face and body, reducing her to property, denying her an education and life outside the home? Would they turn a blind eye to a pre-civil war south where slavery allowed a genteel life for some and one of brutal servitude for others? This so-called commandment is actually nonsense. The truth is that while there are many different states of life and a certain cultural diversity; nevertheless, there are ways of living that countermand human decency and the laws of God. Keeping harems or same-sex partners would also fall within prohibited acts; however, I suspect the atheist critic wants to make room for deviancy. Once more there is a problem with specificity. Who decides what an appropriate lifestyle is and is not? Failure to make any judgment will lend legitimacy to anything and everything.

The Christian would argue that there is a right way to live and that is to live in right relationship with God and man. Sex outside of heterosexual marriage is a sin. A lifestyle that depends upon the oppression of others is a sin. A life that is addicted to booze and drugs is one that faces imminent destruction. Commercialism and materialism will ultimately fail to satisfy the longing of the soul. We live in such a way, in accordance with our nature, so that we can draw out the best that makes us human. We are social creatures which need to interact with each other in a manner that both preserves human freedom and insures the healthy functioning of society. Putting it bluntly, there are right “ways” of living and there are wrong ways, too.

I am somewhat surprised that that a man who promotes science would suggest this dictum. The Mythbusters devote each episode at dispelling myths and trying to ascertain the truth. There is little truth in this so-called new commandment. As with the proper fuel for a car a protocol before a dangerous experiment or explosion— there is a right way and a wrong or dangerous way to proceed.

This new law is really just an excuse for liberality and unhampered toleration. Not that I think he really means it because I suspect there are elements to the Christian life that he would find personally objectionable. In other words, the rule here is biased with unspoken exceptions. He would stretch the definition of marriage and family. Marriage, itself, might be viewed as an unnecessary human construct. Obviously, the atheist critic would not interpret it as a sacrament configured to give grace.

Man is not the final arbiter of right and wrong. The rejection of this truth is at the heart of many contemporary problems. Everything is politicized, even human behavior. If the law says something is right, many presume that it must be okay. The war against drugs goes badly, so advocates argue for their legalization and taxation. When the prostitution situation resists resolution, there is a lobby that suggests making it legal with defined health or safety standards. Assault against children, even in the womb was reckoned as manslaughter and a war crime but now it is regarded as a right of women to choose. Within living memory homosexuality goes from being criminalized to being protected and promoted as a basic civil right. No matter what the issue or behavior, people no longer turn to ministers or philosophers but to lawyers and politicians.

This process promotes a lie… about human nature, about God and his commandments… and about our sphere of influence. The subjective eclipses the objective. The relative dominates over point of permanence. The end result is that we damage ourselves and all our associations. Not only is there a loss of a sense of sin but also of any concrete definition.