Saturday, October 3, 2015

Bill Nye and the Breakdown of Reason

I finally got around to watching the four-and-a-half minute long Bill Nye “scientific defense” of abortion.  Surprisingly, it’s worse than I thought.  Most of the video has nothing to do with science.  What we are presented with is Bill Nye putting forward some of the most illogical arguments for abortion I’ve heard in a long time.  Were I a pro-abortion advocate I’d find Nye’s defense of the position an embarrassment.

Before we take a look at his arguments, let’s remind ourselves who Bill Nye is.  He was the host of the well-known children’s show Bill Nye the Science Guy that aired from 1993 to 1998 and won several Emmys.  It was a good show that taught a lot of kids some good things about science.  But being the host of a children’s show doesn’t make Bill Nye a real scientist.  Bill Nye has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.  That’s as far as his formal education goes.  He’s done some consultation in the aeronautics industry, but seems to have no special qualifications in the arenas of biology or medicine.  Ironically, Pope Francis’s master’s degree in chemistry makes the Holy Father a more qualified scientist than “the Science Guy.”

Mindful of his background and qualifications, let’s take a look at what Bill Nye tells us about the science of reproduction and the implications for abortion rights.  In the first 27 seconds of the video, Nye tells us:

Many, many, many, many more hundreds of eggs are fertilized than become humans. Eggs get fertilized and by that I mean sperm get accepted by ova a lot. But that’s not all you need. You have to attach to the uterine wall, the inside of a womb, a woman’s womb.

This, right here, is the sum total of the “science” contained in the 4:37 video.  And it’s wrong.  Yes, many eggs are fertilized that don’t lead to successful pregnancies.  Miscarriages happen a lot.  But Bill Nye is wrong when he says many more eggs are fertilized than “become humans.”  Maybe he means to say, “fully developed humans,” which would be more accurate.  But as it is, he implies that when a human egg is fertilized by a human sperm, the product of conception is something non-human that later somehow becomes human.  

If the product of conception (zygote) is not human, then what is it?  It’s a fair question to ask.  Is it some other species?  Or is it some sort of non-differentiated generic life form?  If I took a zygote to a lab and said, “I don’t know what species this came from.  Can you do a DNA test on it for me?” would the lab technicians, after running the test, scratch their heads and say, “Sorry, we don’t know what species this is?”  No, of course not.  They’d easily detect human DNA and say, “It’s human.”  But Bill Nye and other abortion rights advocates insist in telling us it is something less than human, a potential-human perhaps.  So what, in their view, makes a zygote or embryo human?

According to Bill Nye, it’s like Real Estate.  It’s all about location, location, location.  Once the zygote attaches itself to the uterine wall, it becomes human.  But that’s ridiculous on the face of it.  Since when does location define a species?  Why would Bill Nye use implantation in the womb as the starting point of human life?  The answer has nothing to do with science and everything to do with politics and pharmaceutical profits.  It has to do with how we choose to define pregnancy.  

If you went back in time a few generations and asked any doctor (or just anybody in general) when pregnancy began, you’d get an answer something like how Webster’s Dictionary defined pregnancy in 1913: “The state of a female who has conceived.”  If you conceive a child, you are pregnant, right?  Seems pretty straightforward.

If you ask an average person that same question today, you’d likely be told the same thing.  Unless you asked a politician.  Or someone from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, or the American Medical Association, who define pregnancy as beginning when the zygote is implanted in the uterine wall.

Implantation in the womb is one of many milestones that a developing unborn human reaches before birth.  Why choose this one in particular to define the start of pregnancy?  Because it can take several days for the zygote to implant, and if a drug kills a zygote before implantation (such as “Plan B” and even most birth control pills), we can pretend that it’s not an abortion because “technically the mother isn’t pregnant yet.”  See how that works?

What Bill Nye does here is take it one step further and claim not only that pregnancy does not begin until implantation, but that human life doesn’t begin until then.  To be very clear, there is no scientific basis for this definition.  It is a definition of political expedience.   

This is the extent of the “science” Bill Nye addresses -- four sentences in a four-and-a-half minute long video.  From this point forward, he doesn’t even attempt to address matters of science.  Instead he gives us his opinion based on deeply flawed logic.

But if you’re going to hold that as a standard, that is to say if you’re going to say when an egg is fertilized it’s therefore has the same rights as an individual, then whom are you going to sue? Whom are you going to imprison? Every woman who’s had a fertilized egg pass through her? Every guy who’s sperm has fertilized an egg and then it didn’t become a human? Have all these people failed you?

Um.  Sometimes you hear arguments so unhinged from the real world that they stun you for a while.  You are unsure how to respond because sure, surely, you are missing something.  Surely he’s not saying what it sounds like he’s saying.  But then you listen to it again and realize, yes, he is saying just that.  

Bill.  Dear, dear, Bill.  There is a difference between someone dying by natural causes or by accident, and someone being intentionally killed.  Your argument basically amounts to, “Since some babies die before birth anyway, it’s OK to go ahead and kill them if you want to.”  Would you use this argument for infants?  Toddlers?  How about teenagers (some of whom really have their moments)?  Or older people in nursing homes?  Lots of them die of natural causes.  And that would really save us on medical costs.

The fact that you think this is a good argument frightens me more than a little bit.

It’s just a reflection of a deep scientific lack of understanding, and you literally or apparently literally don’t know what you’re talking about.

Remind me again what is the science I’m not understanding here?  And how do I “apparently literally” do something?

This is really – you cannot help but notice, I’m not the first guy to observe this — you have a lot of men of European descent passing these extraordinary laws based on ignorance.

Nye doesn’t tell us what “extraordinary laws” he’s talking about.  I assume he means laws meant to prohibit or limit abortion -- such as the laws that existed in every state in America before 1973.  But assuming he means laws that limit abortion, those laws exist mainly in places such as South America or Africa or the Middle East -- you know, places where brown people live.  It’s in Europe and places Europeans have colonized, such as US, Canada and Australia, where you find permissive abortion laws.  I look around the globe and I see a lot of men of European descent passing extraordinary laws based on ignorance that allow the killing of unborn children in the womb.  Is that what you’re talking about here, Bill?

Sorry, you guys. I know it was written, or your interpretation of a book written 5,000 years ago, 50 centuries ago, makes you think that when a man and a woman have sexual intercourse they always have a baby. That’s wrong, and so to pass laws based on that belief is inconsistent with nature. I mean it’s hard not to get frustrated with this, everybody.

Bill Nye here seems to think that the only conceivable (ha!) reason to be against abortion is because the Bible tells us so.  I’m presuming he means the Bible, even though the oldest books in the Old Testament were written about 3500 years ago, not 5000 years ago.  But if we can’t trust Bill Nye to get his scientific facts right, why expect any different when it comes to historic facts?  

Leaving that aside, Bill Nye’s assumption doesn’t address why Muslims oppose abortion, or why you have groups like Atheists Against Abortion, Secular Pro-Life, Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League, or Pro-Life Humanists (all of which are non-religious pro-life groups that I found in about five seconds on the first page of a Google search).  

But what is Bill Nye actually saying here?  He claims that our (presumably the average pro-life Christian) interpretation of the Bible leads us to believe that sexual intercourse always leads to a baby.  Who believes that?  I know no one who believes this.  It’s certainly not taught by my church, the Catholic Church, that actually makes use of the fact that for most of her cycle a woman is not fertile to naturally help husbands and wives space pregnancies.  It’s called Natural Family Planning.  Any “Science Guy” should like NFP; it’s very scientific.  

You can’t tell somebody what to do.

This is the kind of argument made by a spoiled child on the playground, not by someone purporting himself to be an exemplar of reason.  One of my college students currently doing a semester of student teaching at a local elementary school told me just yesterday about a little boy in the class who got in trouble for telling his teacher, “This is a free country, you can’t tell me what to do!”  That child was disciplined because he was wrong.  

Laws in general tell us what we can and cannot do in a civilized society.  Pro-lifers believe that abortion is one of those things what we cannot do, because it denies the most innocent and vulnerable among us -- the unborn -- of the fundamental right to life.  Bill Nye has yet to come close to addressing this argument.

I mean, she has rights over this, especially if she doesn’t like the guy that got her pregnant.

So an unborn baby’s right to life is dependent upon whether and to what extent the mother “likes” the father.  Is there a way to scientifically measure this?

So it’s very frustrating on the outside, on the other side.

Imagine the view from the inside -- inside the womb, that is -- with your very life hanging in the balance based on whether your mom likes your dad.  I imagine that’s rather frustrating, too.

We have so many more important things to be dealing with. We have so many more problems — to squander resources on this argument based on bad science, on just lack of understanding.

So far I haven’t squandered anything but a Saturday afternoon arguing against Bill Nye’s bad science.  I wonder how much time was squandered making his video?  But this seems to be an attempt to basically say, “abortion’s no big deal anyway, so let’s just not talk about it anymore.”  This sounds like the sentiment of someone who knows they are losing an argument.  1.5 million babies die per year through abortion in our country alone.  If you don’t think that’s a big deal, you must not even bat an eye over war casualties, school shootings, or terrorist attacks.

You wouldn’t know how big a human egg was if it weren’t for microscopes, if it weren’t for scientists, medical researchers looking diligently. You wouldn’t know the process. You wouldn’t have that shot, the famous shot or shots where the sperm are bumping up against the egg. You wouldn’t have that without science.

Yes.  All very true.  Science is good.  Hooray.  I’m not sure how this backs up the arguments for abortion presented so far, however.  If anything, scientific advances as described have helped us to see more clearly the humanity of the unborn.  

So then to claim that you know the next step when you obviously don’t is trouble.

The next step in what?  Did I miss something?  I am guessing that Bill Nye is meaning to say the next step for a woman who learns that she is pregnant.  In that case, he is correct, it would be impertinent for me or anyone else to claim to know what the “next step” is for her.  What’s best for her to do at that point depends on a whole host of factors in her life.  But I do know that what’s best for the baby at that point is not be killed.  Killing an innocent human is never “the next step.”

Let me just pull back. At some point we have to respect the facts. Recommending or insisting on abstinence has been completely ineffective. Just being objective here. Closing abortion clinics. Closing — not giving women access to birth control has not been an effective way to lead to healthier societies. I mean, I think we all know that.

Here Bill Nye shifts from talking directly about abortion to talking about abstinence education and the availability of contraception.  I would argue with him against both of these claims (that abstinence education is ineffective and that access to birth control leads to healthier societies).  But then this article would be even longer than it is, and these are not really Nye’s main points, anyway.  Suffice to say, these issues are not nearly as cut and dry as Bill Nye makes them out to be.  So no, Bill, we don’t “all know that.”

And I understand that you have deeply held beliefs, and it really is ultimately out of respect for people, in this case your perception of unborn people. I understand that. But I really encourage you to look at the facts. And I know people are now critical of the expression “fact-based,” but what’s wrong with that?

I’m glad that Bill Nye at least concedes that the pro-life cause is ultimately about respecting all people -- even unborn people.  Because that is really true.  Pro-lifers want to make sure that everyone enjoys their unalienable right to life.  We stand against any attempt by our government to legislate away someone’s humanity, be they the unborn, the elderly, the disabled, the infirm, black people, Jewish people, or whomever.  We all have a right to life.  

Bill Nye encourages us to be “fact based.”  But here we are at the tail end of this video and so far Nye has not presented us with any “facts” to support the continued practice of abortion.  What we have been given are his opinions, which have not been based on science or sound reason.  

Nye ends his video with a plea for unity.  “Come on, come on, let’s all work together.”  But the question is, work together to what end?  Because I’m not going to work together with anyone to encourage the practice of killing the unborn.  That’s what abortion is.  And that’s what Bill Nye is advocating is permissible in this video.  So I am sorry, Bill, but I cannot work together with you on that.  

Now, if you want to put your knowledge, talent and notoriety to work helping to make sure that no expectant mother feels like abortion is her only option, to make sure that every unborn child is given a chance at life, and to make sure that big companies like Planned Parenthood are no longer able to take advantage of vulnerable young mothers, then yes, I will gladly work together with you toward that end.

Friday, October 2, 2015

From the Beginning

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Those who make the claim that Jesus never said anything about same-sex marriage would do well to read the text of today's gospel reading (Mark 10:2-16) in which our Savior explicitly says that man was created male and female, and that a man is to cleave to his wife so that the two become one flesh.

But I'm not going to address same-sex marriage.  Instead, I am going to address two things which, like same-sex marriage, go against the very nature of marriage itself, and yet are widely accepted by our society.  I speak about divorce and contraception.

Jesus does not mince words when it comes to divorce. "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery" (Mk 10:11-12).  Lest we think adultery is a light matter, a few verses on (Mk 10:19), Jesus lists it alongside murder as examples of grave sin.

But how can it be adultery if one marriage is ended and another contracted?  Divorce is widely practiced in our society, as it was in Jewish society in Jesus' time.  There is nothing new under the sun.  But Jesus asserts that this is not the way marriage is meant to be.

Most see marriage as a contract.  If one party ceases to be faithful to the contract, the faithful party is considered relieved of their obligations.  But Christian marriage (that is, marriage between two baptized people) is not a contract.  It is a covenant.  And a covenant remains binding even if one party is unfaithful (for example, God always remains true to His covenant with us, even when we sin against Him).

This is why it is considered adultery for a baptized Christian who has been divorced to marry another person. The fact that you have left your spouse, or been abandoned by your spouse, does not negate the marriage covenant.  The only thing that negates the marriage covenant is death ("till death do us part").  Therefore, while either party is still living, neither is free to marry another person because they are, in fact, still married to one another.  Any relations outside of that marriage covenant are adulterous.

So what is the Catholic Church's teaching about divorce and remarriage?  It is exactly the teaching of Jesus in Mk 10:11-12 -- no more, no less.  This may come as a surprise when one considers the many Protestant churches who claim to base their teachings on the Bible alone, and yet allow divorce and remarriage.  Even the Eastern Orthodox, who remain so close to Catholic teaching in most every way, allow divorce and remarriage.  Only the Catholic Church holds fast to this teaching for the simple fact that it is the clear teaching of Jesus which the Church has neither the authority nor desire to change.

It is no coincidence that Jesus moves directly from talking about marriage in Mk 10:2-12 to talking about children in Mk 10:13-16.  Children naturally follow from marriage.  The Second Vatican Council reminds us that "by its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory" (Gaudium et Spes 48).  In other words, children are an integral part of the nature of marriage itself.

Does this make marriage between a naturally infertile couple any less of a marriage?  No.  But the exception does not make the rule.  Marriage, as an institution, is directed toward the procreation of children.  Contraception perverts the meaning of marriage.  It prevents husband and wife from truly becoming "one flesh" (Gen 2:24).

The word contraception literally means "against the beginning."  Contraception stands against the beginning of new human life.  But it also stands against the beginning of the marriage covenant itself.  When Jesus talks about marriage "from the beginning," as He does in today's gospel, he refers back to our first parents, Adam and Eve.  The first command that the first married couple received from God was "be fruitful and multiply."  Contraception stands against this command.

Contraception not only acts against the natural end of marriage, but against the supernatural end, as well.  For the Christian, marriage is one of the two sacraments of service -- the other being Holy Orders.  Just as the man ordained to Holy Orders is ordained for the service of others, so is the married couple consecrated for service.  Where the married couple is called to serve is principally in the home, to serve both one another and their children.  Children teach their parents vital lessons in selflessness, sacrifice, patience and love, and so help their parents grow in holiness.  Contraception says "no" to the rich blessing of children.

To put it bluntly and biologically, our reproductive systems are meant to reproduce.  Sexual intercourse is how we do that.  This is basic biology and not rocket science.  It can also be a very enjoyable and bonding experience, bringing husband and wife much closer together.  But these factors do not negate its primary purpose anymore than the good taste of food and the bonding that comes from a shared meal negates the fact that food is meant to provide nutrition.

When they enter into marriage, a man and woman enter into that shared vocation of Adam and Eve, assisting God in His act of creation by their procreation.  To separate children from marriage is akin to separating the soul from the body.  One belongs to the other; without the other it is only a ghost or a corpse.

If marriage is not about starting a family, then there is no reason for marriage to be life-long.  And so we see the rise in divorce rates accompany the rise in contraception usage in western society.  If marriage is not about procreation, then there is no reason to limit it to two people of the opposite sex.

When people talk about marriage being under attack, this is what they refer to.  It did not start a few years ago with the push for same-sex marriage.  It started back in the 1930s when Protestant churches began to change their teaching about contraception, which led to wide-spread acceptance of them in the 1960s.  This was followed shortly by a loosening of our nation's divorce laws, to where now anyone can divorce his or her spouse for any reason, and many couples enter into marriage with no intention of it being a permanent commitment.  Half of all marriages end in divorce and half of all children are born out of wedlock in our country.  Marriage is a mess.

But from the beginning this was not so, as our Lord reminds us today.  Each generation is a new beginning.  Each new marriage is a chance to do it right.  Most of you reading this today are not married, but most of you will be in the future.  The way to "fix" the marriage problem in our society is not with laws and Supreme Court rulings, but with an increase of faithful, life-long, holy marriages.

Speaking of the blessing God bestowed upon Adam and Even, Pope Francis recently said that “if we have sufficient faith, the families of the peoples of the earth will recognize themselves in this blessing.” The world continues on, and this world “is born in fact of the family, of the union of man and woman.”  Your marriage, or your future marriage, can help to give birth to a holier and happier world.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pelosi's Question

Today a reporter asked Nancy Pelosi a rather odd question:  "Is an unborn baby with a human heart and a human liver a human being?"  The question seems to have taken the pro-abortion Pelosi a bit off guard.  In her response she seems unable at times to complete a full sentence.

Part of me sympathizes with Nancy Pelosi.  Really.  This is a rather bizarre question to be asked, and is obviously designed to set her up.  If I were giving a press conference and someone came at me out of the blue with an odd-ball question meant to entrap me, I'd be tempted to blow them off, too.

But here's the thing.  What makes the question so bizarre is its obviousness.  Can you imagine someone asking an horticulturist, "If a tomato seed grows into a tomato plant and bears fruit, is that fruit a tomato?"  Or asking a veterinarian, "If my dog breeds with my neighbor's dog, are the puppies also dogs?"  The questions strike us as ridiculous because the answers are so self-apparent.

Sadly, it has become necessary to ask such obvious questions of our policy makers when it comes to human life.  Yes, questions like this are meant to entrap and embarrass -- and they work.  If Pelosi had said "no," that an unborn baby with a human heart and human liver is NOT a human being, she would have looked like a self-deluded fool.  On the other hand, if she had said "yes," that the baby is a human being, then she would have been forced to address the real elephant in the room -- why is it permissible for us to end the life of that human being?

In refusing to answer the question, Pelosi does more than evade the issue.  She shamefully invokes her faith and her motherhood.  "I am a devout, practicing Catholic," she asserts. "I have five children . . . I think I know more about this subject than you."

I cannot judge Pelosi's devoutness, because I do not know Pelosi's heart.  But to invoke her Catholic faith while at the same time defending the practice of abortion is a grave scandal, as horrific a thing as invoking her motherhood while defending the practice of killing children in their mother's wombs.

Lest anyone think that the Catholic Church condones this practice, this is the official teaching of the Catholic Church, directly from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which any devout, practicing Catholic should have in their homes and refer to often).

  • "Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.  From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person -- among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life" (CCC 2270).
  • "Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion.  This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable" (CCC 2271).
There is no nuance here.  No advanced degree in moral theology or philosophy is required to understand that the intentional killing of an innocent human being is grossly immoral.  No advanced degree in biology or medicine is needed to know that the living product of human reproduction is a human being.  All that is required is common sense -- an open mind, open eyes, and open heart. 

Asking ridiculously obvious questions like the one posed to Pelosi today may just help us to shine the light of common sense on this issue.  May God help us to become a society that will no longer condone the killing of its children.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Of Jealousy and Judgment

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Last week our scripture readings warned against jealousy, with Christ admonishing the Apostles for arguing about who among them was the greatest.  This week the lesson in humility continues with a warning to not be jealous of another's gifts.

In our first reading (Nm 11:25-29), a young man complains to Moses that two elders are prophesying who (in his opinion) should not be.  They were not among the elders gathered in the camp when the spirit of God came upon them.  Moses asks the young man, "Are you jealous for my sake?  Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!"

Our gospel reading (Mk 9:38-48) recounts a similar tale.  John complains to Jesus that someone is driving out demons who is not one of the (known) followers of Christ.  Jesus tells John, essentially, to mind his own business.  He then launches into a sermon about the importance of rooting out personal sin.  In other words, turn that judgmental eye off of your neighbor and onto yourself.

We can be jealous of another's possessions, appearance, or status.  We can be jealous of another's spiritual gifts.  We can be jealous of their station or position.  I've seen it many times, even within the Church.  Why did the choir director have that person cantor the psalm?  I have a better voice!  Why did the pastor ask her to help plan the youth retreat?  I've been volunteering for longer than she has!  Why did the campus minister ask him to be on the Peer Ministry Council?  I never see him at our Bible study!

At its heart, jealousy means we are judging others as being less worthy than ourselves.  They don't deserve those gifts -- I do.  Lest we forget, judging others is something we are forbidden to do (Mt 7:1).  There are two phrases that often come up whenever moral issues are discussed or people are accused of being judgmental: "Love the sinner, hate the sin," and, "Who am I to judge?"

People often confuse judging a person with judging a person's actions.  Who am I to judge another person?  Absolutely!  It is God's place alone to judge the soul.  When we judge the state of another's soul, we usurp God's authority and invite judgment upon ourselves.  Who am I to judge another's actions? This is a different matter.  While we are forbidden to judge the state of anyone's soul, we are commanded to judge actions.  If we could not judge the rightness or wrongness of actions, we would have no way of avoiding sin.

Can you condemn a person's actions without condemning the person?  How do we hate the sin and love the sinner?  It helps to consider the three conditions which the Church teaches are necessary for one to be in a state of mortal sin -- that is to say, a state of separation from the life-giving grace of God.  There are three conditions which must be met:
  1. Grave matter -- the person must have committed an act which is objectively a serious sin.
  2. Sufficient knowledge -- the person must have known the act was sinful.
  3. Sufficient use of will -- the person must have wanted to perform the act.
Numbers 2 and 3 are subjective matters of which we have no knowledge when it comes to others. There is no way for us to be in another's head or know another's heart.  Further, we also generally don't know whether that person has since repented of their sin.  In other words, we cannot know the state of another's soul.

On the other hand, number 1 is objective.  We can know whether the act itself is sinful or not.  Not only is it permissible to make such a judgment, but it is considered an act of charity to admonish the sinner.  Sin is harmful -- even deadly -- to the soul.  If we truly love our neighbor, we want them to be happy and holy.  We want them to be close to God.  And so we rightly warn them away from sin.  This requires us to make moral judgments concerning actions.

But we are called first and foremost to make moral judgments about our own actions.   If we are scrupulous in judging others' actions without examining our own actions, we are guilty of the worst kind of hypocrisy.  We should look to our own behavior, our minds and our hearts and when we find sin there, root it out with the help of Christ.  Jesus warns us just how serious a matter sin is.  "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off . . . If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off . . . If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out . . ."

Now, I don't want to see any one-eyed or one-legged students showing up at Mass this week!  Jesus here is engaging in hyperbole for the sake of emphasizing just how serious sin is.  Self-mutilation is in fact a sin.  God made your body and you are called to care for and respect it.  Jesus' point is that bodily harm, as bad as it is, is minor compared the the harm of eternal separation from God caused by unrepented sin.  

St. Ephaim the Syrian
One of the many reasons jealousy is wrong is because it keeps us concerned with judging others and prevents us from turning our gaze inward to discover our own sins.

St. Ephraim the Syrian, doctor of the Church, has very good advice for those who are tempted to judge others.  "Search not out the faults of men; reveal not the sins of your fellow; the shortcomings of your neighbors, in speech of the mouth repeat not.  You are not judge in creation ... If you love righteousness, reprove your soul and yourself.  Be a judge of your own sins, and chastener of your own transgressions."

Rejoice at your neighbor's triumphs.  Be sorrowful over their failings.  But do not neglect to turn your gaze inward, identify your own sins and come to repentance.  Make a good confession.  Be reconciled to God.   Then turn your gaze, unclouded by sin, upon God, the source of all holiness and joy, who loves each of us as His beloved child.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Wisdom from Above

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“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name,
receives me; and whoever receives me, 

receives not me but the One who sent me” (Mk 9:37).
I was an English major in college.  Originally I pursued a professional writing concentration, but switched to literature midway through my undergraduate career.  My advisor informed me,  "If you make this change, you will graduate very educated but not very employable."  I told him that I was attending college to get an education, not a job.

The purpose of studying at a university is to gain knowledge.  What we do with it is up to us.  Some seek to advance in a specialized field of knowledge with the goal of gaining employment in that field.  Others seek knowledge generally.  This was the goal of the classical liberal arts education which consisted of grammar, rhetoric and logic, to which the medievals added arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music. The goal of such broad learning was to move beyond mere knowledge of facts to an understanding of why things are the way they are, how things all fit together, and (most importantly) how one should live one's life accordingly.  We could (as the ancients and medievals did) categorize all this as philosophy, which comes from the Greek words meaning "love of wisdom."

We sometimes speak of someone being "wise in the ways of the world," but our scriptures this week speak of "wisdom from above."  Our gospel accounts both this Sunday and last Sunday give us examples of the difference.  Last Sunday we saw Jesus rebuking Peter for "thinking not as God does, but as human beings do" (Mk 8:33).  Jesus spoke of the need for His own suffering and death; Peter could not see the wisdom in his Lord suffering for others.  This Sunday we see the Apostles arguing among themselves over who is the greatest among them, while Jesus identifies greatness with the humble child and the servant.

This wisdom, which seems paradoxical from the world's perspective, is not learned through study but received as a gift.  In fact, wisdom is defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church as "a spiritual gift which enables one to know the purpose and plan of God."  It is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1831).

The fact that we cannot achieve this order of wisdom by the strength of our own intellect is underscored by its end -- to know the purpose and plan of God.  We seek this wisdom whenever we ask the question, "What is the purpose of my life?"  The answer comes not by earning a degree, but by being open and receptive to God's truth.

"God's truth is His wisdom, which commands the whole created order and governs the world.  God, who alone made heaven and earth, can alone impart true knowledge of every created thing in relation to Himself" (CCC 216).  God's wisdom is truth.  We are wise to the degree that we conform our human will to the truth.  Being wise also means knowing ourselves in relation to God.  This is the most perfect form of self-knowledge, because only by knowing who we are in relation to God can we know our true selves.

This sometimes means unlearning what the world has taught us.  The world teaches us to put ourselves first, but Jesus teaches us to be meek and serve others.  This leaves no room for selfish ambition (seeking to be greater than others) or jealousy (resentment of others' gains).  Our second reading (Jas 3:16-4:3) tells us these things are incompatible with wisdom.  St. James further describes "wisdom from above" in this passage.

Wisdom from above is pure.  When something is pure, it is uncontaminated and clean.  Pure air is healthy.  It is also clear, allowing us to see the world unmarred by the haze of pollution.  The purity of wisdom is healthy for our minds and gives clarity to our understanding.

Wisdom from above is peaceable.  When someone is described as peaceable, it means they avoid conflict and needless argument.  St. James says that the "fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace" (Jas 3:18).  The wise enjoy peace both in the home and the heart not by compromising the truth or moral principles, but by avoiding conflict for conflict's sake and always relating to others in charity.

Wisdom from above is gentle.  To be gentle requires mildness, not severity.  It means being kind and tender, compassionate and sympathetic to others.

Wisdom from above is compliant -- not in the sense of being a push-over or weak-willed, but in the sense of being good-natured and willing to obey rightful authority.  It means being willing to cooperate with another and accommodate another's needs and desires.

Wisdom from above is full of mercy, meaning always willing to forgive others who have wronged us.  Lest we forget, in the Lord's Prayer we ask God to forgive us our trespasses only to the extent that we ourselves forgive those who trespass against us.  If we are not merciful to others, we should not expect God to be merciful to us.

Finally, wisdom from above is consistent and sincere.  This means all of the above characteristics are genuine and unchanging.  The wise person is not gentle with some people but harsh with others.  The wise person does not speak words of mercy with her lips while holding a grudge in her heart.  The wise person does not seek peace on Sunday and sow conflict with a neighbor on Monday.  Wisdom involves a profound and deep consistency, for God's will and His love are consistent.  Wisdom that comes from the mind of God is unchanging because God is unchanging.

The world preaches "wisdom" that says watch out for number one; put yourself first because no one else will; take what is yours; be aggressive and assertive; seek fame, fortune and accolades.  God offers a higher wisdom.  The last shall be first.  The meek shall be exalted.  The greatest among you shall be your servant.

To the world this seems like a paradox.  But God demonstrates the truth of His wisdom through His Son who is both Lord of all and servant of all.  Jesus is the perfect image of God, and perfect source of Wisdom.  Be a philosopher -- be a lover of wisdom.  Seek and understand the wisdom from above which Christ offers and strive always to live your life in conformity with this truth.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Belief and Action

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Is Christianity a system of belief, or a call to action?  What if I told you it was both?

There have been many false prophets through the ages who have erred by over-emphasizing one side of this question over the other.  In our day many believe that simply being good is good enough.  Being a "good person" is seen as the paragon of virtue and the sure key to sainthood, regardless of whether one has faith in Christ or anything else.

On the other hand you have those following the traditions of 16th century Protestant reformer Martin Luther who taught salvation by "faith alone."  The idea is that we can never merit heaven by our own actions.  Only faith in Christ makes salvation possible, therefore faith in Christ is all you need.

Both of these views contain elements of truth, but neither is sufficient.  They each lack some truth contained in the other.

The Catholic Church, following the Bible, teaches that both faith and works are necessary for our salvation.  We see this teaching expressed clearly in today's second reading.  "What good is it, brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Can that faith save him? ... faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead" (Jas 2:14-18).

There is a clear difference between believing and putting that belief into practice. I might believe that investing in a certain stock can make me a millionaire.  But if I don't actually invest my money, my belief gains me nothing.  I can know that studying before an exam will help me to get a better grade, but that does me no good if I don't bother to actually study.

Faith in Christ is like that.  You can believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but then what do you do about it?  Does that belief make any difference in your life?

In today's gospel reading (Mk 8:27-35), Jesus asks the disciples a very important question: "Who do you say that I am?" Peter gives the right answer.  "You are the Christ."  Peter believes correctly.  But what Peter does next shows that he has failed to put that belief into action.

Jesus says something difficult to hear, which Peter cannot accept.  He speaks about how He would suffer, be rejected by all the elders, be killed and then rise from the dead.  This was too much for Peter and so he rebuked the One in whom he had just professed his faith.  Jesus' response was, "Get behind me, Satan!"  If we profess faith in Christ but choose to reject any of His teachings that we find difficult, then Jesus may as well be talking to us.

And let's be honest.  If we don't find any of Jesus' words difficult or challenging, we are not really paying attention.  Immediately after rebuking Peter, Jesus tells us to deny ourselves and take up our cross.  The impact of this statement is lessened because you and I have never witnessed a crucifixion.  But imagine what that phrase must have meant to the first-century hearers of Jesus.  Crucifixions were a regular, gruesome sight in first-century Palestine.  There has been no greater instrument of torture and execution devised by man than the cross.  Those condemned to die by this horrible method were often forced to carry the instrument of their own demise while crowds jeered and harassed them.  Every one of Jesus' hearers would have seen this and been familiar with the agony it involved.  This is what Jesus told them to emulate.

That certainly qualifies as a "hard saying" of Jesus.  So how do we put our faith into action when it comes to denying ourselves and taking up our crosses?  Denying yourself is compared to the cross because it means giving up that thing which is most precious to you -- your self.  When James speaks in his epistle of giving food to the hungry or giving a cloak to the naked, he's telling us to give up our own comforts for the sake of others.  Loving your neighbor means making sacrifices.

Now here's the kicker.  Christ doesn't stop at telling us to love our neighbors.  He tells us to love our enemies.  In last Thursday's gospel reading (Lk 6:27-38) Christ said, "Even sinners love those who love them."  Christ demands more from us.  He expects us to love even those who are indifferent to us or who hate us.

Love, like faith, requires action.  Just as it is not enough to say, "I believe in Christ" and not follow up that belief with action, so it is not enough to simply have loving feelings towards someone and not put that love into action.  Love costs us something of ourselves -- it requires us to deny ourselves.  That's hard enough to do for someone we actually like; imagine how difficult it is to actively love someone who hates you.  This is the love Christ calls us to.

Denying yourself, loving those who hate you -- this all seems like backwards nonsense to the world.  But as Christ tells Peter, "You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."  Jesus knows that only by denying yourself can you learn what it truly means to love; and that the more perfectly we learn to love, the closer we come to holiness and to God, our origin and our end.

To love in this way requires faith and action, working together.  Word and deed.  This is what it means to live as a Christian.  This is what it means to "work out our salvation" (as St. Paul puts it; Phil 2:12).  This is what it means to become a saint.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Basic Catholic Prayers

The Angelus

Traditionally, the Angelus is prayed at 6:00am, noon, and 6:00pm.

V. The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary;
R. And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary…

V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to your word.
Hail Mary…

V. And the Word was made flesh,
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary…

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we, to who the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His passion and cross be brought to the glory of His resurrection, through the same Christ our Lord.

Regina Caeli
Prayed during the Easter Season in place of the Angelus

V. Queen of heaven, rejoice! Alleluia.
R. For he whom you did merit to bear. Alleluia.

V. Has risen, as he said. Alleluia.
R. Pray for us to God. Alleluia.

V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary. Alleluia.
R. For the Lord is truly risen. Alleluia.

Let us pray.
O God, who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life, through the same Christ our Lord.

The Divine Mercy Chaplet

The Chaplet of Mercy is recited using ordinary rosary beads. The Chaplet is preceded by two opening prayers from the Diary of Saint Faustina and followed by a closing prayer.

1. Make the Sign of the Cross
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

2. Optional Opening Prayers
You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls, and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us.

Repeat three times
O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of Mercy for us, I trust in You!

3. Our Father

4. Hail Mary

5. The Apostle's Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; He descended into hell; on the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

6. The Eternal Father
Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

7. On the Ten Small Beads of Each Decade
For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

8. Repeat for the remaining decades
Saying the "Eternal Father" (6) on the "Our Father" bead and then "For the sake of His sorrowful Passion" (7) on the following "Hail Mary" beads.

9. Conclude with Holy God (Repeat three times)

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

10. Optional Closing Prayer
Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion — inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.

The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary

Wednesdays and Sundays

1.  The Resurrection:  Mk 16:1-8

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him.  Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.  They were saying to one another, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”  When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large.  On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed.  He said to them, “Do not be amazed!  You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.  He has been raised; he is not here.  Behold, the place where they laid him.  But go and tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.”  Then they went out and fled from the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment.  They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

2.  The Ascension:  Lk 24:50-52

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them.  As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven.  They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.

3.  The Descent of the Holy Spirit:  Acts 2:1-4

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

4.  The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary:  Ps 16:10

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, nor let your devout one see the pit.

5.  The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary:  Rev 12:1-2

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.  She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.

The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary

Tuesdays and Fridays

1.  The Agony in the Garden:  Mt 26:36-46

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress.  Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death.  Remain here and keep watch with me.”  He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.”  When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep.  He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?  Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!”  Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open.  He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again.  Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?  Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners.  Get up, let us go.  Look, my betrayer is at hand.”

2.  The Scourging at the Pillar:  Jn 19:1
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged.

3.  The Crowning with Thorns:  Mt 27:29
Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand.  And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.”

4.  The Carrying of the Cross:  Jn 19:16-17
Then he handed him over to be crucified.  So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha.

5.  The Crucifixion:  Jn 19:25-30
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.  When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.”  And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
     After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scriptures might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.”  There was a vessel filled with common wine.  So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth.  When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.”  And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

The Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary


1. The Baptism of Christ in the Jordan: Mk 1:9-11

It happened in those days that Jesus came up from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

2. The Manifestation of Christ at the Wedding of Cana: Jn 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 at the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe him.

3. The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with His Call to Conversion: Mk 1:14-15

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

4. The Transfiguration: Mk 9:2-8

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.

5. The Institution of the Eucharist: Mk 14:22-26

While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

The Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary

Mondays and Saturdays

1. The Annunciation: Lk 1:26-38

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

2. The Visitation: Lk 1:39-56

During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.

And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age for those who fear him. 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. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

3. The Nativity: Lk 2:1-14

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is the Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

4. The Presentation: Lk 2:22-35

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate of the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

5. The Finding of Jesus in the Temple: Lk 2:41-51

Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival customs. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.

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