Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Conscience is bothering me...

What does it really mean when we say that? Why is that, when we have done a wrong or committed a sin, most of us are haunted by "something"? That "thing" is, of course, our conscience. The word conscience means "with-knowing". This knowing is what keeps us accountable to God, to society and to our own deepest self. Theologians tell us that there are two types of conscience - anterior and subsequent. Anterior conscience is what we use when we are searching and deliberating about what we should do in a particular situation. Subsequent conscience is when we look back and examine an action  or decision already made.
The challenge for us as Christians is to make sure that always seek to better form our conscience so it is capable of leading us to good moral choices and of examining choices already made. We do this in prayer by asking God to reveal to us our own "dark side" so that we can continue to improve. We also do this in study by reading and understanding Scripture, digging into the Catechism and other trustworthy resources, and by taking time every day to reflect on our thoughts and actions. In the end we rely on God's grace given through the Sacrament of Reconciliation to propel us to a saintly lifestyle. 
I am attending a 4-hr talk this Friday on "conscience". I'll write more on this when I process the speaker's message.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

We don't wail like pagans...

...but weep with Jesus Christ who wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus.

This is a quote from the homily given by Fr Paul Rutten at his father, Ed Rutten's funeral. What a beautiful witness to hope in the wake of the death of one whom he loved so much. It takes a lot of faith to understand death as the end only of earthly life and the beginning of a new stage of life. Certainly, grief and loss are still felt but those feelings are assuaged by the sure and certain knowledge of the resurrection of the body. Fr Paul and his mother and his eight siblings and all of the grandchildren showed that belief at the funeral. What a glorious sendoff for a holy and faithful man.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What's Eating Away At Your Faith? (1)

At St Michael Parish we are going to do our best to assist people during this "Year of Faith" so that all of us can come out of it in a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. We have all sorts of plans to use Social Media, our website and our printed material to challenge our members. In our committee meetings we will take a small portion of the time and dedicate it to a teaching or a prayer time.
Our associate pastor, Father Russell, asked a good question at our meeting the other day, "What is eating away at your faith?" This is where we really need to start if we're going to identify a way to strengthen our faith. So I ask YOU - "What is eating away at your faith?" Is it your job, your busy life, your neglect, or your own bad habits? Is it other people, bad preachers, scandals, or sin? All of us have something in our life that works against our natural desire to be in a deeper relationship with God. Some of those things we can control and some of them we cannot. Please take a few moments NOW to identify those corrosive elements in your life.
I plan on writing a couple of more times about this topic with some more specific things I have found that affect my faith and what I've found out from others.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Blessed are the poor...

In Luke's version of the beatitudes, he states them a little differently than Matthew. Instead of saying "blessed are the poor in spirit" he just says "blessed are the poor". The conclusion to his version has the "woe to's", where he admonishes those with wealth by saying things like "Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation" (Lk 6:24). Sayings like this to the people of his time were shocking because the prevailing belief was that the rich were blessed by God and the poor were cursed. If you read all of Luke's Gospel, indeed if you all of what Jesus said in his lifetime, you learn that the poor do have a special place in his heart.
Which brings me to today. In our town (Sioux Falls) our City Council recently passed an ordinance against the panhandling of people in motor vehicles. This seems to be aimed at those persons who stand near Interstate exit ramps holding their cardboard signs. I see those people often as I exit I29 at 26th Street and I usually do not give them anything. Sometimes I even get a little disgusted with the whole situation, but in the end I appreciate the reminder. Those people serve to remind me (and all who see them) that there is a poverty / homelessness problem in our city. We who live away from the center of the city don't always realize that there are hungry, homeless, impoverished people in our own town. This type of "in your face" image reminds me to call the Banquet and get on the calendar to serve a meal, to take my unused clothing to the St Vincent de Paul Store and to say a prayer of thanksgiving for all of the ways God has blessed me and my family. Without those "exit beggars" who will remind us?
I know the City Council will defend their actions as a safety issue and maybe there is something to that. But I suspect that the underlying reason for the ordinance is the complaints from people who just don't like the reminder and would rather not have to think about Jesus blessed friends - the poor.
"If you oppress poor people, you insult the God who made them; but kindness shown to the poor is an act of worship" Proverbs 14:31

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Did Jesus Love Me Even Then?

Why is it so hard for me (and some others) to accept love and forgiveness from God through Jesus Christ? There are some things that I have done in my life that I am utterly ashamed of. I have confessed those sins and heard the words of absolution but I still struggle. In my mind I know that God forgives me but in my heart I question. This leaves a wide open door for the devil to attack me and to bring me down in guilt and shame.
What could be so serious a sin so as to cause these inner battles? In a word - birth control. In our early marriage, my wife and I used many different forms of artificial contraception and this practice proved very harmful to her good health. That is one of the reasons I feel such guilt - that I could have been hard hearted enough to practice something that would eventually harm her. The other reason is much more serious, at least for me. As I look back on my married life I KNOW we should have had more children. My wife has said the same thing. There is no more terrible regret for me than this because I cannot go back and undo it. I hope any young married person reading this will consider their choices carefully and stay open to life (in reasonable and holy ways) throughout their marriage.
But the reality is this. Jesus loves me now and he loved me even then. His will for me was much different from the way I lived but He walked with me anyway. And He walks with you. Regardless of what we have done, no matter what our worst sin is, Jesus stands ready to forgive in love. So I pray that God's love will penetrate into those deep recesses of my heart and that I will be open to that love. And I pray that any shame or guilt you are dealing with from your past will receive that same healing touch.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Debate Viewer Advice

I am decidedly NOT a fan of watching presidential debates. I get tired of the way candidates (from both parties) shift nearly every question back to their own talking points and ignore the moderator. Some of that was evident last evening. Despite my aversion to these debates, I did mange to watch about 70 minutes worth on Wednesday evening.
So, here's the advice. If you plan on watching the next two presidential and/or the vice-presidential debate please form your own opinion on the outcome. When the debate is over, TURN OFF THE TV! Pundits and so-called experts will analyze everything down to the last participle of speech and try to tell you who won or who lost. Don't listen to them. For the remainder of the campaign form your own opinions based on the content of each candidate's platform and plans - not on emotion, news-guy spin or sound bytes.

Monday, October 1, 2012

More Cell Phone Etiquette

Our city (Sioux Falls) just began a "texting ban" last Friday, making it an offense to text while driving. To me this is nothing short of amazing. People do all sorts of silly things while driving but I cannot imagine anything more dangerous and distracting than texting. What's amazing, of course, is that we need an ordinance as an effort to regulate this behavior. Unfortunately, a motorcyclist was killed earlier this year by a man driving well over the speed limit AND sending a text message at the same time. There is really a message that needs to be sent so urgently that it cannot not wait until your destination is reached?!
As you have likely experienced, there are all sorts of rude cell phone behaviors. When I was in the retail business it was always maddening when people would talk on their cell phones the entire time they were checking out. Oftentimes people, while in a conversation with another person, will answer their cell phone or read a text instead of concentrating on the live person in front of them - how dehumanizing can we get? It wasn't too many years ago (15-20) that cell phones were very rare and the only people carrying them were construction foremen and realtors. Somehow they have become indispensable devices to the expense of (what used to be common) polite human contact.
Here is a suggestion I saw on another blog today (Deacon's Bench). If you have other suggestions please post them.