Saturday, August 29, 2009

22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time –Year B – (30th August, 2009)

22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time –Year B – (30th August, 2009)

(Deuteronomy 4.1-2,6-8: James 1.17-18,21-22, 27: Mark 7.1-8,14-15, 21-23)

Some years ago a woman went to a priest saying that she was suffering greatly because she had this terrible need to wash her hands many times each day. Especially before going to Mass she would wash her hands. Again, the same thing before and after communion she had tissues to wipe her hands and also at the end of Mass. She really was a slave to this practice and felt that if she didn’t do it God would punish her.

This poor woman reminds us a lot of today’s gospel. The Pharisees and some of the Scribes were caught up in the same kind of practice and accused the disciples of Jesus of not washing their hands before eating and of not sprinkling themselves with water on returning from the market place. According to the Pharisees and the Scribes these things belonged to the essence of religion. Jesus came to show us that they were not and to give us a true idea of who God really is and what kind of response he is asking of us.

The Pharisees paid more attention to the outside than the inside. For them the exterior was everything. Hence their concern about outer cleanness, and neglect of what was more important – inner cleanness or cleanness of heart.

Here we see what is perhaps the major difference about what true religion is according to them and the vision of religion that Jesus came to reveal to us. He was saying that all washings and purifications are useless unless they lead to an inner purification, a conversion of our hearts.

Once I met a man about halfway through Lent who said he went to daily Mass but had stopped going to Holy Communion. When I asked him why, he said it was because on the previous Ash Wednesday he had eaten meat and only came to realise it next day. This external regulation prevented him from receiving Communion. He considered a Church regulation as being more important than receiving the Eucharist. He cannot be blamed, as he believed it was a serious sin. This is precisely why Jesus came to teach us the true meaning of religion. Reading the 4 gospels continually informs us what Jesus is telling us about true religion.

The key issue in all of this is what is the correct Image of God. Our practices will reveal to us what kind of a God we really believe in. If we focus on the externals only we may just be paying lip service to God.

I knew a woman who says vocal prayers for over half an hour every day. Sometimes when it comes to going to bed because she has been very busy during the day she hasn’t had time to say her prayers, so she kneels down and even though falling asleep she struggles through her prayers as she feels God would be displeased if she didn’t say them, instead of just saying to God ‘I am exhausted, I offer you my tiredness and exhaustion. Good night’. For her religion is quite a burden which is not what true religion is meant to be. It should be a way of responding to our loving, compassionate Father who wishes to guide us through life without loading heavy and difficult burdens on us as the Pharisees did to the Jews.

We can understand then why so many sinners, prostitutes, public sinners flocked to Jesus to hear his liberating message. He told them clearly that what mattered before God were not all these external practices. Most were unnecessary and in fact, kept people away from God. The essential was to love God with all one’s heart and one’s neighbour as oneself. Anything not leading to these was not God’s way.

In many ways Jesus is reminding us that our religion has to be better than mere externals. It’s really about an inner conversion, calling us to a change of heart where necessary. It’s about deepening our personal relationship with Jesus, with God. This means placing our trust in him as completely as we can. This a great gift to ask God for.

For me the easier part of my religion is celebrating Mass and praying. Forgiving those who hurt me or living in community with people who have another way of seeing things which are equally valid is not always easy. All of you who are married know this. Life is not always easy and enjoyable.

Jesus’ message today is very simple and clear, though not always easy. Do our religious practices or lifestyle lead to a greater loving service of our families and neighbours? Do they lead to forgiving our enemies, help us to be non-judgmental etc? Do they, above all, help us to come to an ever deeper awareness that God is our loving Father and will give us all the gifts we need to make us happy, free and at peace. So for you and me here this morning where is Jesus speaking to us? Where are we unfree? What practices from childhood, family, Church still enslave us? What church traditions did we grow up with that do not give us peace, joy and help us to come to love God and our neighbours better?

True cleanliness consists in putting the Word of God into practice, a word of encouragement or a deed of love for others when it is possible even at the expense of one’s own comfort. Let us ask God’s help.

Jesus tells us that we should wash our hands of anything which prevents us from making the life of our neighbours easier or better especially the poor, the widows and orphans as St.James tells us in the second reading today.

“Lord Jesus, help us to let go of any external practices which do not lead to interior conversion and to a more loving service of You and of our neighbour. Amen”.

(Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA. 25th August, 2009)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Odds and ends 8/09

Microsoft apologizes for changing race in photo

Aha! Caught cheating eh? These naughty MS guys changed the black face with a white face and now they get a red face. Something's hilariously wrong if one looks closely. Of course, they forgot to change the color of the hands. Then the head of the white guy seems unnaturally too big, his neck seems too short, and he appears to look at a different direction. The result is eggs on Microsoft faces. I mean, they got lots of money to hire and photograph new models, why bother to fake it? It would be easy quite enough to pose again for them, yes?

Jesus of Nazareth (2)

A recent question posed in Catholic Forums goes:

"...I, like many other Catholics, have had many questions about our faith of things we don't understand; for instance why was our Lord baptized when He was without sin?..."

Having just read the first chapter of Pope Benedict XVI's "Jesus of Nazareth", the opportune explanation presents itself (as excerpted)

"...Descending into the water, those baptized recognized their own sins and sought to free themselves from the weight of being oppressed by sin. What did Jesus do? Luke, who throughout his gospel pays particular attention to the prayer of Jesus, and constantly presents Him as the One who prays - in dialogue with the Father - tells us that Jesus was at prayer after being baptized. Because of the cross and resurrection it becomes clear to Christians what had occurred: Jesus took on his shoulders the weight of the sin of all humanity; he took it with him into the Jordan. From the beginning of his activity he takes the place of sinners. There begins the anticipation of the cross. He is, so to say, the true Jonah who said to the sailors: take me and throw me into the sea. (Jonah 1:12) The full meaning of the baptism of Jesus, his fulfillment of “all righteousness” (cf Matt 3:15) reviews itself only in the cross: the baptism is the acceptance of death for the sins of humanity, and the voice from heaven "This is my beloved Son” is the anticipated reference to the resurrection. Thus one understands the reason why in his own discourses Jesus uses the word baptism to refer to his own death. (Matt 10:38; Luke 12:50) [p 38]..." /


Friday, August 21, 2009

21st Sunday of Ordinary Time –Year B – (23rd August, 2009)

21st Sunday of Ordinary Time –Year B – (23rd August, 2009)

(Joshua 24.1-2, 15-17, 18b; Ephesians 5.21-32: John 6.61-70)

A certain young man was in love with this girl. They had been together for a few years. One day the girl asked him ‘Are you going to marry me or not? He said that he wasn’t really sure, so he asked for more time.. She said that she would give him 6 more months to make up his mind and then to choose. Because of his own parents’ bad marriage and the number of their friends who were divorced he was afraid to risk. At the end of the 6 months the girl asked him what his choice was - to marry her or not. He said that he still wasn’t sure and needed more time. So she told him that their relationship was over, as she couldn’t wait any longer.

The young man wanted to be sure before making his choice. He wanted to keep his options open. He was afraid to risk all by choosing to marry the girl. What if the relationship didn’t work out? What if she or he became seriously ill? What if he lost his job etc.?

In the gospel today we have something similar – People are being asked to make a choice, as we are, to choose to follow Jesus or not. Will we choose to follow him for a while and see how things work out and if they don’t we can always opt out of our choice of him?

In last Sunday’s gospel Jesus had said ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood you will not have life in you’. The response of many to that statement is the beginning of today’s gospel. They said ‘This is a hard saying, who can accept it’. They were trying to understand it in a rational, logical way. But really the only way we can accept that Jesus gives life in its fullest is through our faith, our belief that what he says is true. It is a hard saying because Jesus not only challenges our intellect but more so our way of life, behaviour, our attitudes etc.

Faith is critical. Faith is more than just having true doctrine. It is first of all a commitment to a close relationship with Jesus. It evaluates whether one’s belief are in conformity with the words and actions of Jesus, whether they are ‘spirit and life’. Do they empower us to face life calmly and courageously?

We know of course that the words ‘eat my flesh and drink my blood’ are not to be taken in their literal sense. It is Jesus’ dramatic way of asking us to accept him totally - his thoughts, attitudes, values, his life-view must become ours.

There’s very much a ‘take-it-or-leave- it’ approach in today’s gospel. There is no attempt at gentle persuasion. The people had seen or heard of him working miracles and giving other signs too. They had heard his preaching which was very powerful so much so that once the Jewish religious leader sent the temple guards to arrest him but they came back without him saying ‘no man speaks like this man speaks’. Even they recognized that Jesus’ words were special.

Neither does Jesus treat us like puppets on a string which have to do exactly as the puppet master decides. No, God in Jesus gives us a choice like the people in the first reading were given a choice by Joshua to choose for or against the Lord.

So where do you and I stand? We can as Christians choose to turn away from Jesus because we feel the demands are too much. Yet you and I are here today because we have chosen to be here. We have said ‘yes’ by our very actions that we believe that Jesus alone can give us eternal life beginning right now with its fulness to come after we die. But we must live out our lives daily and these must show that our Sunday worship must be backed up by our behaviour in daily life. As St. Francis noted, we should preach the gospel at all times, using words when necessary.

If you and I are honest, we can all say that at times when the demands of following Jesus were too much we have turned back but soon realised we were always loved and accepted and forgiven for whatever wrong we did and we started off again trying to be faithful. This may happen a number of times but if we turn back to God we are embraced as loved children of His.

In our world today there may be many reasons to turn away from Jesus, 1) a wrong understanding of the gospel message 2) negative witnessing by followers of Jesus, i.e.. scandalising behaviour from some Christians, be they priests or lay people 3) the powerful attractions of a seductive world, which are not compatible with the Christian vision etc.

Being a Christian today has different demands to being one 20 or 30 years ago. What is Jesus asking of me now? Where is he leading me? How am I responding? All of you are here this morning because you believe in Jesus despite the struggles we all have to follow him closely. Sometimes like Peter and the other apostles we may fail but God loves us totally and unconditionally. He will always forgive us if we turn back no matter how long we stayed away. He is a faithful God and he reminds us that the Eucharist, the sacraments and prayer as well as the good example of yourselves and others are always available to encourage and empower us.

“Lord Jesus, may we call often on your Holy Spirit to help us to be faithful to you always. Amen”.

(Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA. 18th August, 2009)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

You can't win em all

[subtitle: David takes down Goliath]

The golfing world is all agog over Tiger Woods' shock loss at the P.G.A.

Yes indeed, Tiger Woods is human after all

CHASKA (AP) --­ The scene seemed surreal, mostly because somehow we never expected to see it. Tiger Woods had been so great for so long that the idea of anyone — much less the late-blooming son of South Korean vegetable farmers — coming from behind to beat him when it really mattered bordered on preposterous...
Woods, raised from birth to be the best player ever, led after all three rounds and was so good on Sundays at majors that this one seemed like little more than a victory lap. Yang, who took up golf at age 19 only after tearing up his leg while trying to become a bodybuilder, was in qualifying school last year and had never sniffed the lead before at a major championship.

But it was Yang who kept calm even though he could barely sleep the night before because he was so excited by it all.

[after the game, this is what Tiger has to say]

"I played well enough to win the championship," Woods told the media. "I did not putt well enough to win the championship today. I didn't get it done on the greens, and consequently, I didn't win the tournament."

[strange that Tiger has words only about himself, and nothing about the game of the guy that beat him on his own game. I guess it's ok, he is the best golfer in the world after all]

[now listen to this guy Y.E. Yang]

"I wasn't that nervous, honestly, because it's a game of golf," he said through an interpreter. "It's not like you're in an octagon where you're fighting against Tiger and he's going to bite you or swing at you with his 9-iron. The worst I could do was just lose to Tiger."

[and from another news feed

He took the lead for the first time all week by chipping in for eagle from about 20 yards short of the 14th green. And when it looked as though nerves were getting the best of him, on a three-putt bogey at the 17th, he delivered his two most important shots.

Yang still had enough strength left to hoist his golf bag over his head, and later the 44-pound Wanamaker Trophy. [what follows I think is his next two most important shots...] After a long and tearful embrace with his wife, Young Ju Park, he walked across a bridge saluting thousands of fans who couldn't believe what they saw.

[and all I can say is...awesome!]


Monday, August 17, 2009

Jesus of Nazareth (1)

Note: More than two years ago when this first book of Pope Benedict XVI in his papacy first became available in one of the Catholic bookstores I frequent, the price of the hardbound edition was around P2,500. Much as I wanted to get my hands on the book, the price was too stiff for me and I decided to wait for a cheaper edition. I was finally able to get a copy a couple of months ago at National bookstore - a bantam hardbound copy at P995. It was still pricey for me, but I decided to take it anyway. The typeface was a little too hard on my eyes, but my cheap reading glasses comes to the rescue.

The book contains 10 chapters, and to date I have only managed to read the foreword, but I guess the foreword by itself is well worth the price of the book. To a non-theologian layman like me, the foreword's essay on the historical-critical method - its importance as well as its limitations in addressing Christology - is thoroughly illuminating. Here are a few excerpts of that 14-page foreword. My emphases in bold, and my [comments bracketed in red].
The historical-critical an indispensable tool, given the structure of the Christian faith...This method is a fundamental dimension of exegesis, but it does not exhaust the interpretative task for someone who sees the biblical writings as a single corpus of Holy Scripture inspired by God.
For someone who considers himself directly addressed by the Bible today [although many interpret it in their own way], the method's first limit is that by its very nature it has to leave the biblical word in the past [otherwise, it would be violating the method's discipline]. It is a historical method, and that means that it investigates the then current context of events in which the texts originated. It attempts to justify and to understand the past - as it was in itself - with the greatest possible precision, in order then to find out what the author could have said and intended to say in the context of the mentality and events of the time. [talk about exclusively literal interpretations]. To the extent that it remains true to itself, the historical method not only has to investigate the biblical word as a thing of the past, but also has to let it remain in the past. It can glimpse points of contact with the present and it can try to apply the biblical word to the present; the only thing it cannot do is make it something present today - that would be overstepping its bounds. Its very precision in interpreting the reality of the past is both its strength and its limit. [excellent]
At this point we get a glimmer, even on a historical level, of what inspiration means: The author does not speak as private, self-contained subject. He speaks in a living community, that is to say, in a living historical movement not created by him, nor even by the collective, but which is led forward by a greater power that is at work. [the Holy Spirit] There are four dimensions of the word that the old doctrine of the fourfold sense of Scripture [CCC 115] pinpointed with remarkable accuracy. The four senses of Scripture are not individual meanings arrayed side by side, but dimensions of the one word that reaches beyond the moment.
Unless there had been something extraordinary in what happened, unless the person and the words of Jesus radically surpassed the hopes and expectations of the time, there is no way to explain why he was crucified or why he made such an impact. [Non-believers, listen]. As early as twenty or so years after Jesus' death, the great Christ-hymn of the Letter to the Philippians (cf. Phil 2:6-11) offers us a fully developed Christology stating that Jesus was equal to God, but emptied himself, became man, and humbled himself to die on the Cross, and that to him now belongs the worship of all creation, the adoration that God, through the prophet Isaiah, said was due him alone (cf. Is 45:23).

Critical scholarship rightly asks the question: What happened during those twenty years after Jesus' Crucifixion? [may I add - would the believers sacrifice their very lives for a grand farce?] Where did this Christology come from? To say that it is the fruit of anonymous collective formulations, whose authorship we seek to discover, does not actually explain everything. How could these groups be so creative? [and very bold to the point of death]. How were they so persuasive and how did they manage to prevail? [those lowly fishermen?]. Isn't it more logical, even historically speaking, to assume that the greatness came at the beginning, and that the figure of Jesus really did explode all existing categories and could only be understood in the light of the mystery of God? [very, very good questions]. Admittedly, to believe that, as man, he truly was God, and he communicated his divinity veiled in parables, yet with increasing clarity, exceeds the scope of the historical method. Yet if instead we take this conviction of faith as our starting point for reading the texts with the help of historical methodology and its intrinsic openness to something greater, they are opened up and they reveal a way and a figure that are worthy of belief...
It goes without saying that this book is in no way an exercise of the magisterium [a remarkable disclaimer], but is solely an expression of my personal search "for the face of the Lord" (cf. Ps 27:8). Everyone is free then, to contradict me [anyone care to try?]. I would only ask my readers for that initial goodwill without which there can be no understanding...

And I ask the good Pope to write more books, and for the publisher to make them more affordable. The Pope hopes to write a Part 2, "to include the chapter on the infancy narratives, which I have postponed for now, because it struck me as the most urgent priority to present the figure and the message of Jesus in his public ministry...". I am in no hurry, since I still have to read and digest the 10 chapters of this first part - certainly with large doses of goodwill after reading that excellent foreword.

The Pope says: "I would only ask my readers for that initial goodwill without which there can be no understanding..."
Indeed, initial goodwill and subsequent openness can only be present to a true seeker of truth.

As the Psalmist so prays ---

"Come," says my heart, "seek God's face"; your face, LORD, do I seek! (Ps 27:8)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Puzzle Time (1)




Think more...

Give up?...

Answer here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Of smart questions and Obamacare

In one of the prolife workshops I attended quite a spell ago, I remember a group case study brought up for discussion.

A deadly virus outbreak has suddenly contaminated the earth and some survivors were fortunate enough to avoid the fatal contamination by holing up in securely-sealed habitable underground chambers. In one such chamber, there are 10 people holed up waiting for the virus outbreak to end. These people are composed of the following: 1) a scientist, 2) an eminent educator, 3) a priest, 4) a young bright boy, 5) a physician, 6) a young pretty girl, 7) an old woman, 8) a pregnant mother, 9) her husband, and 10) you. The virus outbreak is estimated to clear up in 100 days, after which the survivors in underground chambers can safely move out.

Unfortunately, the food stocked in this particular chamber where you among these 10 people are holed up can only accommodate to feed 5 people in 100 days. You have been recognized as the natural leader of the group, and as one of the 10, has been unanimously elected to decide your group's fate. You are obviously faced with the hard decision of choosing who among you should stay in the chamber and survive by partaking of the food sufficient enough to feed only 5 people comfortably for 100 days. The rest would be immediately let out of the chamber to fatally face the virus outbreak and die immediately.

What would you do? If you had to choose, whom would you choose and why?

In this case study, it would be easy to drawn into debating the practical needs of the majority, based upon the the relative "worth" of each person. The root question that seems apparent goes like: "Who are the persons who deserve to die more than others?". The question appears challenging, except when one questions the very question itself. Why can't the available food be stretched so that ALL ten people may eat and live?

Apparently, a similar question of the first sort haunts the controversial health reform program being pushed by Obama. Ex-governor Sarah Palin asks the questions here.

"Who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course," the former vice presidential candidate wrote on her Facebook page.

"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil," Palin wrote.

The America I know is a super rich, first-world superpower country that is capable of taking care of ALL its citizens, with more than enough spare to give aid to less developed countries. Maybe it is a matter of not asking the right questions. I have yet to hear a smart politician convincingly defend the proposed health care program against the charges of fatally marginalizing the sick, elderly and disabled. Speaking of smart politicians, here's an oldie but goodie, slightly revised.
There were four men in an airplane: The pilot, a smart politician, a priest, and a boy scout.

They were flying along when the plane started to crash. Noticing that there were only three parachutes, the pilot grabbed a parachute and jumped out, saying: "I have to live to report this accident".

Now with only two left, the smart politician said "I have to live so I should go ahead too. I am a very smart public servant and the world needs me to save it.", so he grabs a parachute and jumps out.

The priest turns to the boy scout and says, "Son, I've lived my life and I know where I'm going, so you go ahead and take the last parachute."

The boy scout replied, "No, we can both go. The smart politician took my backpack".

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Feed my sheep

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Homily byJim Kirstein SMA

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time –Year B – (9th August, 2009)

(1Kings 19.4-8: Ephesians 4.30 – 5.2: John 6.41-51)

After the fall of communism in a certain country and its leaders overthrown by the people it was found that there were a number of orphanages in which handicapped children were living in atrocious conditions. It was clear that they had been given the minimum of food to keep them alive but no loving care. When these orphanages were taken over by UN sponsored agencies and the children treated lovingly and with great concern it was amazing how quickly the children developed. Obviously loving concern was their greatest need apart from better food.

So where do you and I get the nourishment we need for a happy life? Many people in our world still have a great deal of money and some I know are certainly not happy, though we all agree money is very necessary for living. Today’s advertising world is trying to convince us that if we have different commodities, like a lovely house, a new car, nice clothes etc we will be happy. Sad to say this is no guarantee of a deep peace. Why is it that some with all these turn to drugs, sex, drink etc? What do they find lacking? Maybe they think that in these they will find lasting nourishment for their lives? We know that if addictions take hold how terribly sad it is.

In the gospel today Jesus is offering himself to us as the bread of life, the true nourishment that will nourish us on all levels of our being. Is that true for you and me? A well-known writer once said that Christianity had failed. A famous English writer replied that Christianity had not failed but it had not been fully tried. I believe this is true. Many try to follow Jesus, not because the Church says so or God might punish them if they don’t. No, they try to follow Jesus and accept his ways and values because he asks them to but also because it has given them a deep peace and joy. Twice in John’s gospel he reminds us that in him alone, that is by having his value system, will we have the deep peace and the joy we all yearn for. But it isn’t easy to follow Jesus closely. Others will say ‘why not enjoy life etc? But how?

The Jews in the gospel today complain about Jesus when he says that he is the ‘living bread that comes down from heaven’. I think I can understand their problem. They know the family of Jesus and his background so it is quite a claim on the part of Jesus. But he asks them to let go of prejudices and rational questioning alone. He simply says. “Look at my lifestyle, what I have done, the miracles, a great welcome for and forgiveness of sinners etc. Do these speak to you of someone who works for God or not?”

Maybe you and I are like that sometimes. We have questions about Jesus and who he is. Also like Elijah in the first reading we may find at times that life is very difficult and feel like throwing in the towel. There is nothing wrong with that. Didn’t Jesus himself in the Garden of Gethsemane reach a very low point too? But with God’s help he got through it. So will we.

God doesn’t ask us to understand totally how he can be the Son of God, who has come down from heaven. He asks us to believe, to accept. This is also why I accept Jesus as Saviour. Because in my own personal experience I find confirmed over and over again the claims Jesus made, the Good News he came to preach. Simply stated, it is a call to believe, to have faith in Jesus. Jesus says today in the gospel: ’Everybody who believes has eternal life’. Do we pray for a living faith in the living Lord Jesus? It is a grace from God, as Jesus tells us that no one can come to him unless he is drawn by the Father who sent him’. If we ask for this from God he cannot refuse us.

Jesus says ‘I am the living bread that comes down from heaven’. The one sent by God is a human being who belongs to our history, our world. Maybe the unbelief of the Jewish leaders is still amongst us. Do we prefer to believe in a God who belongs to another world only? So if you are blessed to be in a good relationship, with good emotional support, live in a happy relationship in a family, in a religious community or with others, there is the living bread coming down from heaven to us still. Let us not confine God to Mass on Sunday in the Eucharistic Bread and Wine. Since the Resurrection, Jesus is out and about in so many different ways. May he give us, through his Holy Spirit, the eyes to see this in our daily lives. And remember that since communion in the body of Jesus makes us brothers and sisters of everyone; we have to create a community of equals among ourselves, forgiving each other, loving and serving each other. In so doing we are giving life to one another. St. Paul in the second reading advises us how to behave.

The Eucharist is a whole way of life. No matter how often we receive Holy Communion, unless we listen to the Word of God and allow our lives to be transformed, going to Mass does not transform our lives as it should.

Whilst the connection between right living, acting justly and being a Christian is a central teaching of Christian life, perhaps this bond is not preached about as much as it might. But are we aware of the greatness of the gift of the Eucharist? Assenting to receive Holy Communion is to agree to open oneself to knowledge of the truth. Our participation in the Eucharist should form and inform our life’s actions. Christ’s words, ‘Do this in memory of me’, are an invitation to live as Christ lived, to love as Christ loved, to live according to different value systems than those of the capitalistic competitive environment. The Eucharistic celebration is part of our schooling in Christian living, not an obligation to be fulfilled.

Today’s Good News is that Jesus came to nourish us on all levels of life and he still comes down to us from heaven, not just at Sunday Mass, but through the people and experiences of our daily life.

“Lord Jesus, may each one of us who claims to be a disciple of yours show to others that you still come to us through our love, concern, compassion, forgiveness and service of all people we meet. Give us your powerful Holy Spirit to help us to do this. Amen.”

(Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA. 2nd August, 2009)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sex without a condom is good for you - leading Scottish psychologist

Sex without a condom is good for you, says professor
Published Date: 03 August 2009
By Tom Peterkin

HAVING sex without a condom is good for your mental health, according to controversial research conducted by a leading Scottish psychologist. Professor Stuart Brody concludes that unprotected heterosexual sex can significantly boost men and women's mental wellbeing.

Conversely, Mr Brody claims that heterosexual sex with a condom is associated with poorer mental health, problems with dealing with stress and even conditions such as depression.
Mr Brody said: "Evolution is not politically correct, so of the very broad range of potential sexual behaviour, there is actually only one that is consistently associated with better physical and mental health and that is the one sexual behaviour that would be favoured by evolution. That is not accidental."

Reactions here, here, and here.
H/T Jack Smith/The Catholic Key Blog

The Catholic Key Blog concludes:

"I think this all demonstrates the fact that committing a sacrament is a lot less stressful than committing a sin.".

I would go a bit further. Committing a sacrament is not only a lot less stressful, it is infinitely joyful.

Here's what the book of Proverbs, chapter 5, has been saying all along:

1 My son, to my wisdom be attentive, to my knowledge incline your ear,
2 That discretion may watch over you, and understanding may guard you.
3 The lips of an adulteress drip with honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil;
4 But in the end she is as bitter as wormwood, as sharp as a two-edged sword.
5 Her feet go down to death, to the nether world her steps attain;
17 Let your fountain be yours alone, not one shared with strangers;
18 And have joy of the wife of your youth,
19 your lovely hind, your graceful doe. Her love will invigorate you always, through her love you will flourish continually, When you lie down she will watch over you, and when you wake, she will share your concerns; wherever you turn, she will guide you.
20 Why then, my son, should you go astray for another's wife and accept the embraces of an adulteress?
21 For each man's ways are plain to the LORD'S sight; all their paths he surveys;
22 By his own iniquities the wicked man will be caught, in the meshes of his own sin he will be held fast;
23 He will die from lack of discipline, through the greatness of his folly he will be lost.

Cory - One More Time

Monday, August 3, 2009

Of saints and "religious conservatives", again

R.O. takes exception to two columns which appeared in yesterday's Sunday edition of the Philippine Inquirer.

One such statement was made by Patricia Evangelista in her column piece "After Cory." I admire Evangelista’s bright, independent mind and steely courage. In that light, the opinion she gave last Sunday was vaguely amusing to me, considering she’s the granddaughter of Ninoy Aquino’s publicist, Mario Chanco, and is niece to two devoted lay Catholic leaders I know. But I was not amused by this:

"Saints are touched by the hand of God, they do no wrong, they are faultless, full of the light of heaven – but they belong behind glass cases, painted eyes lit by Christmas lights, of little use in a country where every man is a sinner because he lives."
The second one is made by columnist Michael Tan in Sunday Inquirer Magazine:

"Religious conservatives continue to label homosexuality as 'unnatural and sinful'," vehemently opposing any kind of gay rights legislation."

These two columnists, I observe, cease to surprise me anymore. I myself have taken exception to their writings in the past: here and here.

For one thing, Ms. Evangelista appears to me as a young, intelligent, creative and bold writer who is on an obsessive human justice crusade. Nothing wrong with that of course, at least until her obvious orientation eerily reminds me of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. In her recent column, she makes it no secret when she says:

"I write this to celebrate a hero, not a saint". A saint, she adds, "is of little use in a country where every man is a sinner because he lives".

Her creative writing must be due in large part to her being a wide reader, yet she probably did not read much of St. Thomas More, for starters.

Professor Michael Tan, on the other hand, makes a whooping "horrendous error of generalization and oversimplification" according to R.O.. I agree. My comments on the thread thus:
In fact the Catholic Catechism says in CCC 2357..."Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained...tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law." and in CCC 2358 ..."The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."...

Now to direct attention back to Prof Michael Tan's assailed statement:

"Religious conservatives continue to label homosexuality as 'unnatural and sinful'," vehemently opposing any kind of gay rights legislation".

It is clear that Mr Tan is indeed guilty of "generalization and oversimplification." as R.O. suggests. He never bothered to expound on an objective presentation of the "religious conservatives" position as is normally expected of an academician. If you notice even in the past articles of Mr. Tan, he is bound to use the general term "religious conservatives" in a somewhat derogatory manner. Notice further that the Catholic position above says "every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided", so that leaves us in the dark likewise what Mr. Tan means by "conservatives...vehemently opposing any kind of gay rights legislation". Again, his readers should expect better.
So much so for "fearless views".

Sunday, August 2, 2009

To believe in the Son of God

August 2, 2009

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The bread of Life; to believe in the Son of God

...And they said, "This man is the son of Joseph, isn't he?
We know his father and mother. How can he say that he has come from heaven?"...

(Jn 6:24-35)

This man is the son of Joseph (v.42). Jesus' listeners were Jews who believed in God and the Scriptures. To believe in the prophets who were honored after their death was easy; but to recognize God's contemporary and controversial messengers, especially when the messenger of God was as simple carpenter was another matter. This is equally true today, for we must overcome doubts and listen to God's messengers who point out the mission of the Church in today's world. There are many who believe in the Bible or Christ but refuse to listen to the Church, especially when it speaks through Christians and religious belonging to the world of the poor and of workers.

- Christian Community Bible, Catholic Pastoral Edition


And here is a quote from G.K. Chesterton:

"The point of having an open mind, like having an open mouth, is to close it on something solid. "